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stationers' hall court, ludgate hill, e.c. 


V76-sif<+- IQ,47$ 

Made and Prilled in Great Britain by 


I wish firstly to thank my friend Mr. Leslie 
Eveleigh, F.R.P.S., for his continuous help and 
co-operation. Without his knowledge of every 
branch of the cinema industry this book could 
never have taken the form that it has. 

Then there is Mr. H. V. Whitehouse, one of 
that little band of distinguished though amateur 
scientists who even before Frieze-Greene was 
turning the handle of his first camera were pour- 
ing out both time and money in their passionate 
belief that true colour photography would even- 
tually become a practical proposition and who 
have contributed so much to the industry of 

Finally, I want to thank Mr. Cecil Hep worth for 
writing the Foreword. There is little that I can say 
to him except that I count myself fortunate indeed 
to have even so much as two lines from his pen 
inside the covers of this book. 



Why the author or authors of this book should 
have been prompted to conceal his, her, or their 
identity under a false name is not for me to guess, 
but I propose to give the show away to this 
extent: the pseudonym is not a cloak for ignor- 
ance, as pseudonyms sometimes are, but covers, 
in fact, a fund of intimate knowledge of silent 
pictures from before the war and of talking 
machines from the days when those egregious 
instruments had scarcely dreamed of a union with 

To me the most remarkable thing about this 
union is the speed and completeness with which 
it has been accomplished. Until two or three years 
ago the high contracting parties were completely 
aloof from one another, and although from time 
to time there were rumours of an engagement, it 
was not until quite recently that the mating took 
place. Moreover, it would seem that although the 
marriage appears to have been arranged in 
America, there is not the remotest likelihood of 
a divorce. I am not going to be inveigled into an 
invidious guess as to which of the protagonists 
is the better half, although there are some who 
are ungallant enough to suggest that the mere 



name "talking machine" is sufficient indication 
of sex. 

It must be remembered that the two have been 
flirting for years. Long before the war the gossips 
were busy with rumours of entanglements which 
resulted in the birth of the Cinephone and the 
Vivaphone and other strange hybrids, but now 
that the real marriage has taken place it is natural 
that these youthful indiscretions should be 

I begin to feel that I shall be on safer ground 
if I do not pursue this image any further, for I 
want to allude to some of these early efforts 
without having to call them by an unkind name. 
I am speaking of pre-wireless days when no one 
had dreamed of amplification by valves and the 
gramophone had to stand upon the platform 
where the screen was, remote from the operating 
box. The problem was to keep synchronism 
between two machines that were so far apart. 
In Barker's Cinephone the talking machine had 
an illuminated disc with a hand travelling over it, 
and in the corner of the projected picture was the 
photograph of a similar disc which had been part 
of the scene when the film was taken. If the 
operator in the box could turn his handle at such 
a speed as to keep the projected index finger 


exactly in step with that on the gramophone his 
picture would synchronize with the sound. He 
had to be clever to be successful. But it did not 
matter very much, for the audience got so 
interested in watching his efforts that they forgot 
to listen. 

In the Vivaphone — for which I was responsi- 
ble — the connection was electrical. A periodic 
impulse from the distant gramophone was associ- 
ated with a similar electrical impulse from the 
projector. These impulses acted in opposite 
directions upon a single needle, so that it remained 
stationary as long as synchronism was maintained, 
but gave instant warning if it were in danger of 
being lost. There was another fearsome device 
whose name I have forgotten, in which a kind of 
cardan shaft ran the whole length of the hall from 
the projection booth to the gramophone, and the 
records of the patent office bristle with other 
optimisms of inventors who were before their 

But all of these devices, however successful, 
were foredoomed to a short life, for they were 
based upon a kind of fallacy. They all took 
existing gramophone records and made films to 
synchronize with them, and it was obvious from 
the start that the supply of records of a sufficiently 


suitable character must soon come to an end. 
But there was one invention which I remember 
appealed to me very much because it was free 
from this objection, and the picture and the 
sound-record were made simultaneously. I forget 
what the device was called, but it came out under 
the aegis of Leon-Gaumont of Paris. One of the 
results I remember was the crowing of a cock, 
which is not what you would call an enthralling 
drama in itself, but was completely convincing 
as to the method used, for you could not introduce 
a cock to the record of his own crow and ask him 
to do it again in perfect synchronism. It is to be 
presumed that these early manifestations came to 
an untimely end for want of the thermionic valve, 
for it is indisputable that the means of amplifica- 
tion, first evolved for the benefit of radio, was 
the vital spark which brought the talkies into 

It is interesting to recall that Edison's invention 
of the talking machine was the result of his effort 
to give sound to his kinetoscope pictures. You 
gazed into a peep-hole for the view and put 
"cheese-tasters" in your ears for the sound, and 
there you were. But the people went crazy over 
the picture and disregarded the dialogue, and so 
it happened that the two became separated in 


the very beginning, and it was not until thirty- 
years later that ten thousand inventors set to work 
to bring them together again. 

That the talkies have come to stay there is not 
the slightest room for doubt, and I suppose that 
most people are well satisfied that it should be 
so. The perfection which they have attained in 
the very few years of their union gives promise 
of the development of a really valuable medium 
of expression when its artistic possibilities are as 
well understood as its physical difficulties. But 
it may perhaps be permitted to a veteran to regret 
the passing of the silent film, for many years and 
much labour and treasure had been expended in 
the attempt at its perfecting, and a little progress 
had been made which now has gone for nothing. 
Sad to remember that the silent picture had an 
opportunity which it never really developed. 
Some hint of its potentialities was given in such 
films as "Nanook of the North" and "Chang," 
and a few others — films which got a glimpse of 
vast tracts of open spaces and seas and moun- 
tains, and called the very forces of nature, storms 
and flood and frost and savage beasts to be their 
actors. But the opportunity for real greatness was 
scarcely touched, and producers who had the 
whole world for an arena preferred the easier 


way — a puppet-show in a closed-in studio. And 
now the opportunity has gone. Perhaps there will 
be another quite as good to take its place — let 
us hope so, anyway. The king is dead. Long live 
the king ! 

















were made Frontispiece 



















greene's COMPLETE OUTFIT ... 8 












A 10,000-WATT "INKY" .... 82 













24. western electric talkie projectors at 

the plaza, piccadilly .... 1 26 

25. the "fader" i30 

26. high- power loudspeaker amplifier . 131 

27. two western electric loudspeakers 

(screenhorn and small "monitoring" 

horn) 132 

28. movable horn "tower" . . . . 1 34 

29. contact print from technicolor 






34. CLARA BOW 185 

35. HAROLD LLOYD 1 86 





Everybody has been talking Talkies ; all sorts of 
things have been written about them. Some 
people like them, others say that they will be a 
thing of the past in five years' time. On the other 
hand many declare that they are the most tre- 
mendous advance in public entertainment that 
has ever been achieved. They came, too, at a 
time when those engaged in the Motion-Picture 
industry were beginning uneasily to wonder 
whether the silent film was not approaching the 
saturation point of progress. More and more 
money was being poured out in magnificent 
theatres and palatial surroundings, with the addi- 
tion of stunt lighting and very expensive Star 
Bands and Variety Artists, in an endeavour to 
negative the suggestion that the day was not far 
off when the public would begin to ask, marble 
fountains or no marble fountains, whether there 
were not some other form of entertainment to 
satisfy their craving for novelty and new emotional 


experiences. The whole industry was, with only a 
few exceptions, on the verge of bankruptcy. 

Both got what they wanted, and the Talkies 
have certainly stirred up not only the public but 
the Motion-Picture folk as well. Angel-faced 
beauties and strong, silent men were reported to be 
packing their bags and stealing away from Holly- 
wood, because, in spite of eyes like stars and 
masterful chins, nature had endowed them with a 
voice like a corncrake or an accent that could be 
cut with a knife. Some even now are reported to 
be taking time by the forelock and spending their 
now too frequent "Rests" in the salons of the 
voice production experts. 

Whatever such rumours are worth, one is 
certainly true. The Talkies have entirely altered 
methods of production built up after years of 

The speed of action of Talking Pictures is 
entirely different from that of the silent dramas. 
The pace of the latter is terrific. Anyone who 
wants to prove this has only to put his watch to 
his ear and count the seconds as scene after scene 
flashes by on the screen. Very few "shots" last 
more than fifteen or twenty seconds. 

Many scenarios have had to be entirely rewrit- 
ten, and the art of film editing, a highly expert 


business, has taken on an entirely different com- 
plexion. Film editing consists of cutting and 
arranging the various episodes with their captions 
and titles in a telling and effective sequence. 
With the silent drama it is perfectly possible to 
cut out many feet of film without distracting 
the eye of the audience ; not so with the Talkies, 
however ; the effect of taking out a scene and half 
a sentence with it would be disastrous ! If that is 
necessary it all has to be done over again. A mere 
snip of the scissors and a nimble dab of film 
cement is no longer always possible. 

The film actors are not the only folk who have 
been set by the ears : there is not a single depart- 
ment in film work which has not had to start on a 
whole series of new problems and adapt already 
known processes to the new art. 

Producers, set designers, scenario writers, 
carpenters, electricians, and chemists all are 
hard at work trying to keep up with the 
Talkies which have burst upon the world so 
suddenly and have been hailed as the most 
marvellous invention of modern times. 

But we must pause and think. Are they as new 
as all that? . . . 

In the scramble to produce them, to go and see 
them, praise or blame them, we seem to have 


forgotten to wonder who invented them, and 
whether or not some of the praise, anyhow, 
should not go to scientific workers, some of whom 
are long since dead, but who dreamed of Talkies 
and made their contribution of inventiveness and 
hard work to the bulging bank balances of the 
Talkie producers of to-day? 

While it is the purpose of this book to take 
our readers behind the scenes a little and show 
them something of that side of film production 
which hardly, if ever, appears on the silver screen ; 
into the studios and laboratories where they may 
see and learn something of the various processes 
and find out how the experts in their long white 
coats are tackling the hundreds of new problems 
with which they have been so suddenly con- 
fronted; is it fair to charge right ahead and 
forget the pioneers with their queer apparatus 
and their dreams and disappointments? Surely 

A book could be written about any one of 
them. But you need not fear that you will be 
bored with dull figures or a mass of lecture 
jargon. All that can be done is to give honour 
where it is due and remind you that there is very 
little that is brand new in any modern develop- 
ment, except, perhaps, the glittering motor-cars of 


those who have been fortunate enough to be in 
the business when the dreams of the old-time 
inventors have come true. 

The idea is so old that it is lost in the "mists of 
antiquity." From time immemorial mankind has 
tried to produce speaking and moving representa- 
tions of his fellows. Even the Egyptians are 
believed to have had a device for reflecting the 
images of men and women on to smoke screens 
by means of mirrors of polished metal from 
illuminated "studios" underground. Many a guilty 
miscreant has stammered out his or her confession 
before their relentless accusers as vision after 
vision floated before their terrified eyes, and 
accusing fingers singled them out for the hideous 
retribution they had to make. 

The Greek Oracles did a roaring trade in 
mysterious utterances whispered through loud- 
speakers hewn, either by nature or by the officiat- 
ing priests, out of the rock of the grottoes where 
their shrines were situated. 

Coming to the 'eighties we find that in 1888 
one hero, Mr. Le Prince, actually took a motion 
picture of his mother-in-law. It was not a very 
flattering portrait, but there is no doubt about 
the date at which it was taken and that it was a 
motion picture, because the august lady departed 


this life in October of that year, and Mr. Will Day 
has a portion of the film. 

It is indeed quite impossible to discuss the early 
history of motion pictures without mentioning 
Mr. Will Day's name, for it is his passionate 
devotion to the industry, with which his name 
has for so long been associated, that has prompted 
him to spend a fortune collecting every shred of 
material and information from the ends of the 
earth which could complete the chain of evidence 
which points unerringly to the fact that in the 
first place the history of the Movies is largely 
the history of English inventiveness, and in the 
second place that there would have been no 
history to talk about if it had not been for Mr. 
Will Day's devotion, some of the fruits of which 
are to be seen in his magnificent collection of 
historical Movie apparatus in the South Kensing- 
ton Museum. 

It is difficult not to wonder whether there is 
not an evil spirit that haunts the inventors of 
the film world. If there is, it was Mr. Le Prince 
who was the first to fall under its spell, For one 
day he bid good-bye to a friend at Dijon Station, 
stepped into the train, and from that moment to 
this has never been heard of, or, indeed, remem- 
bered except by a few enthusiasts who, headed 


by E. Kilburn Scott, are proposing to put a 
tablet to his memory on his house in Leeds. His 
apparatus disappeared, too, as mysteriously as he 
did. But we do know how he made his picture. 

He took a series of separate pictures with a 
weird and wonderful camera having a lens for 
each picture, and then mounted each picture 
separately on a long band, and triumphantly 
dragged the lot through a projector by means of 
perforations on one side of the strip which 
engaged in small points on the edge of the roller 
or sprocket which drew the strip through. Not 
even Mr. Day can tell what Mr. Le Prince's 
mother-in-law said when she saw herself on the 
screen. She may have been enthusiastic, then 
again she may not; one thing is quite certain, 
that her picture would not stand much chance of 
a record run if it appeared at a theatre now, 
because it was taken at the speed of only ten 
pictures per second instead of the sixteen or more 
pictures which are considered necessary now to 
lull our gullible optic nerve into a sense of 

The idea of passing the pictures before the 
lens in a strip was a most important advance. 
For while it is true that a number of people had 
laboriously built up a series of images on glass 


discs and cylinders, this was the first hint of the 
form that motion-picture records were to take. 
It will not take much to ask the reader to believe 
that Thomas Edison was hot on the track of the 
motion-picture idea ; he was, in fact, one of the 
glass-cylinder merchants in the same year, and 
shortly after made a record on a strip after the 
fashion of the Le Prince machine soon after that 
unfortunate gentleman so mysteriously disap- 

A year before this, however, there was patented 
in America an idea of prime importance to the 
development of motion-picture films. An Ameri- 
can clergyman, the Rev. Mr. Hannibal Goodwin, 
conceived the notion of using celluloid instead of 
glass for photographic plates, in such a way that a 
series of pictures could be photographed on to it 
without the necessity of making separate pictures 
and mounting them. 

In the same year, however, someone in England 
was doing a lot of hard thinking about the idea of 
the motion picture ; that was Mr. Frieze-Greene, 
who in his laboratory at Chelsea was laying the 
foundations of the motion picture as it is pro- 
duced to-day. In 1888 he made a photographic 
film on paper soaked in a no less homely fluid 
than castor oil in order to make the paper suffi- 



ciently transparent to show the pictures through, 
but he was not satisfied with this paper film and 
looked about for a more suitable "base" for his 
light-sensitive emulsion. 

Finally, with the assistance of an expert chemist 
friend he produced the first celluloid motion- 
picture film, and made a picture of Hyde Park 
Corner, which was later exhibited at Chester in 

In the meanwhile Edison, who heard of the 
Kodak Company's experiments with celluloid, 
sent post haste to Mr. Eastman for a strip of this 
new material. 

Frieze-Greene had in the meanwhile, however, 
patented his invention, and there is no doubt 
whatever that he held the master patent for all 
moving pictures as they are produced to-day. 
Mr. Day has a fragment of one of his early films 
made of a scene in Chelsea. 

Frieze-Greene was not to live to enjoy the fruits 
of his extraordinary invention or, indeed, of the 
many other brilliant ideas which emerged from his 
fertile brain. Misfortune struck him down as it 
eclipsed Le Prince and wellnigh crushed the 
pioneer Talkie inventor. 

Space forbids us to describe either his other 
work or his remarkable cameras and projectors 


with such a tragic history, for he neglected his 
business in the pursuit of the perfect movie 
machine and was thrown into prison for debt. 
While in gaol he suffered the final indignity of 
seeing his precious apparatus sold under the 
hammer for the paltry sum of 25 shillings to 
satisfy his creditors, who little realised that the 
bits and pieces that they were trundling away 
on their barrows were to become beyond price in 
so short a time. 

Let it suffice to say that he died a pauper whose 
name is barely known to the millions who nightly 
crowd the cinemas of the world, rewarded only 
by a memorial erected in his honour by his 
colleagues in the industry he created. 

In the meanwhile in America the indefatigable 
Edison was actually working on a Talkie, and 
in 1888 he hitched up to his picture cylinder 
one of the wax cylinders of his newly invented 
phonograph, and, to quote Mr. Ramsaye of the 
Pathe Exchange, New York, he produced "one 
cylinder of fairly good noises and one full of 
frightful pictures"; artistically the thing could 
hardly claim to be a success, but it does serve to 
show that the idea of the possibility of a Talkie 
is not by any means new, in fact a Talkie machine 
pn these lines was actually made commercially. 


=5 > 












But owing to the fact that it was, like all the early 
disc or cylinder picture machines, merely a peep- 
show, which could only be viewed by one person 
at a time, it was not a success, and soon died a 
natural death. 

We must turn once more to England in our 
search for the inventor of the Talking Film as we 
know it to-day. 

Romantic as the story of the silent picture has 
been, the Talkies can claim a special page in the 
history of scientific development. That page was 
written in the records of the British Patent Office 
by Eugene Lauste twenty-three years ago. 

Lauste had been working for years to combine 
the work of Herr Ruhmer (a German scientist) 
and Frieze-Greene ; and he did succeed at length 
in devising a true Talking Film machine which 
worked satisfactorily. His work is an excellent 
example of the combination and patient develop- 
ment of already known facts ; it had, for instance, 
been known for years that certain materials altered 
their electrical qualities under the influence of 
light. The discovery of the light-sensitive pro- 
perties of selenium was romantic in the extreme, 
and burst quite unexpectedly on the world of 
science at a period which is distinguished for the 
production of discoveries which began to sever 


the boundaries between what were then largely- 
considered separate sciences, and began to show 
that no branch of science could be considered 
without its relationship to others. 

Before the discovery of the light-sensitive pro- 
perties of selenium there had only been the 
faintest suspicion that there could be any con- 
nection whatever between the activities of light, 
chemistry, and electricity, although the connec- 
tion between light and chemistry was of course 
known to the early pioneers of the art of 

The fact that selenium, and, indeed, a number 
of other substances, w T ould alter their resistance 
to the passage of an electric current under various 
degrees of illumination, was a discovery of the 
most momentous importance. It came about in 
this way : 

There was in charge of the Transatlantic Cable 
Station at Valencia a certain Mr. May, an assistant 
of Professor Willoughby Smith ; May noticed one 
day that the needles of his indicators were flicker- 
ing in a manner that was quite unexplainable. 
He made a series of tests to see if anything were 
wrong or if an endeavour were being made to 
pass a message to him ; but he was quite unable to 
account for these spasmodic and irregular move- 


ments. In vain he examined every portion of his 
machine to trace the cause of these eerie signals 
from nowhere, and it was only by chance that 
he noticed that when he moved his hand in 
the air the needles nodded back to him. He 
walked over every inch of the room moving his 
hand slowly this way and that, until he found 
that it was when the shadow of his hand passed 
over certain portions of his apparatus that the 
mysterious movements began again. 

He moved closer and closer to the table until he 
was able to identify the piece of apparatus that was 
behaving in so peculiar a manner; it was com- 
prised of some electrical resistances made of 
selenium, known then only for its highly resistive 
qualities. May immediately communicated with 
his Chief, Professor Willoughby Smith, whose 
paper on the subject aroused the whole scientific 

It was, however, Alexander Graham Bell, the 
inventor of the telephone, who first demonstrated 
the possibility of using light in the service of 
sound; the story of his experiment has come 
down to us as a graphic little anecdote which is 
unforgettable. Bell's idea was to mount a mirror 
on the diaphragm of one of his telephones and 
cause the vibrations of his voice to flicker a ray 


of light so that it varied in intensity as it fell on 
to a small cell of selenium, known by that time 
to possess light-sensitive qualities. His transmitter 
was fixed in the window of a room in Washington, 
and was left in charge of his assistant, Mr. Tainter, 
while Bell walked over to the building where his 
receiving mirror and selenium cell was fixed. 

At last Tainter, unable to contain himself, 
shouted to the machine: "Mr. Bell, Mr. Bell, 
if you can hear what I am saying come to the 
window and wave your hat !" 

Bell, hearing these words as he picked up the 
receiving instrument, at once went to the window 
and was seen by his delighted friend frantically 
waving his hat with a beaming smile on his face. 
A small incident in itself, but little less dramatic 
than the historic moment when Bell called into 
the first telephone to his assistant: "Come up 
here. I want you," and waited breathlessly for the 
welcome sound of eager feet pounding up the 

Bell is not alive to see the Talkies, but if there is 
a place where the inventors of the past are allowed 
to congregate and murmur to each other, "I told 
you so," and the question of Talkies crops up, he 
will be in good company. 

I must not dally too long, however, over these 


first birthdays of science. I must press on and 
mention again Herr Ruhmer, who achieved some 
astonishing successes with Light telephones, 
which were indeed the first wireless telephones. 

Ruhmer succeeded in telephoning with a search- 
light several miles ; but he made another contribu- 
tion to the Talkies which was much more 
important than that, for he actually succeeded in 
photographing on to a strip of film the vibrations 
of sound, and probably gave the idea to Lauste of 
this form of sound record. It was, however, left 
to the genius of this remarkable old gentleman to 
conceive and invent a machine which would 
combine the film sound record and the motion 
picture film. 

Lauste's ingenuity was really extraordinary. 
When we come to discuss the various methods in 
use to-day, we shall realise that there was no 
fundamental feature of Talkie work that his 
British patents did not cover; they are indeed 
well worth quoting, for in their prosy official 
phraseology lies a romance of invention which 
was as extraordinary as it was unfortunate. 

This invention (says the specification) relates to a new or 
improved cinematograph and phonographic method or 
process, and to means for recording and reproducing 
simultaneously the movements or motions of persons or 


objects and the sounds produced by them ... so that the 
impressions of the movements would be recorded simul- 
taneously with the impression of the sound waves and 
will be reproduced simultaneously and in exact synchronism with 

Here was the general idea, but as we read on 
we see that both the remote sound-recording 
camera, which we shall read about later, and the 
idea of the picture film with the sound-record 
printed along its edge, are clearly mentioned. 
Not only that, but the two methods of photo- 
graphing sound are specified. Nothing, in fact, is 
left out which really matters. 

We transmit the sound waves electrically from the place 
where the sounds originate to the place where we desire to 
have them recorded, and we record them photographically 
in varying degrees as to area, quantity, intensity and 
corresponding effect of light and shade proportioned to 
their period and amplitude, simultaneously with the 
recording photographically of the impressions or photo- 
graphs of the successive movements of the objects, on 
separate parts or in separate positions of one or the same 
transparent medium or recording substance of material. 
. . . When such record is obtained we reproduce it by 
causing light to pass through that portion of the medium 
containing the record of the impressions and so project 
them on the screen, simultaneously causing light to pass 
through that portion of the medium containing the record 
of the sound-waves to a cell of selenium or other suitable 
substance by which the varying degrees of light and shade 
of the record are converted into correspondingly varying 


electric currents, which are transmitted to the place where 
it is desired to reproduce them, and there converted into 
sound vibrations by a suitable vibrating medium. 

What more astounding story could be told? 
What greater tragedy than that Lauste, financially 
ruined and broken in health, allowed his patents 
to lapse? 

In the absence of the thermionic valve, Lauste 
tried every conceivable means, from singing 
flames to compressed air, to overcome the diffi- 
culty of amplifying his reproduced sounds. After 
vainly seeking financial support in this country 
and Europe, he went to America, where he made 
an effort to interest capitalists in his Talking 
Picture device, but his plans were thrown into 
chaos by America's entrance into the War, and he 
made no progress for some years. Disappointment 
had by this time broken his health, but he never 
lost faith in his invention, and in 1923 he entered 
into an agreement with someone in New York 
to finance the device. The best, however, that this 
financier could do was, to use Mr. Lauste's own 
words, "to string him along until 1926," when he 
again fell ill. It was during this illness that his 
financial agent persuaded him to move his machi- 
nery and instruments to more convenient premises. 
Later, however, the man disappeared, and Mr. 


Lauste discovered that no rent had been paid, and 
that the whole of his plant had been mortgaged 
for $1,000. 

The courage of inventors is proverbial, and 
Lauste is still working away in America on a new 
form of sound reproducing device, and, at the 
age of seventy-two, watches with interest the 
legal battles of the huge concerns in the Talkie 
world of to-day, the representatives of some of 
whom were frequent visitors to his laboratory 
while he was ill, years ago. 

Some years before the War, still further activity 
was showing itself in England. Mr. Hep worth, 
a very early photographic pioneer and the 
inventor of the automatic development of cinema 
film, now used all over the world, succeeded in 
getting, anyhow, a plausible imitation of a Talkie 
by rather a different system called the Vivaphone. 

He used to secure gramophone records of such 
famous artists as Vesta Tilley and Harry Lauder, 
and get them to sing in front of the camera with 
their records; these records were then synchro- 
nized with the resulting film by means of a most 
ingenious electrical signalling device up to the 
operating room. This was, however, not true 
synchronization, and although some measure of 
success was obtained, one occasionally beheld the 


spectacle of the singer several words in front of 
the words coming from the gramophone, fre- 
quently due to the fact that the job of starting the 
gramophone was relegated to the program girl. 

Some of our readers may remember those early 
pictures, for they were actually shown in a number 
of cinemas up and down the country, and hun- 
dreds of short films were made, including two of 
particular interest. A good deal of use has been 
made recently of the talking film for political 
purposes, and this type of propaganda work has 
been hailed as the very latest device for persuading 
the electorate to do as they are told. 

Mr. Hepworth was before them all, however, 
with two talkies made many years ago, one of 
Lord Birkenhead — then F. E. Smith — and the 
other of the late Mr. Bonar Law, both of whom 
were dilating on Tariff Reform ! 

Although Mr. Hepworth actually went so far 
as to take his artists down to the "His Master's 
Voice" studios to have special records made for 
his device, his pictures were not a prolonged 
success, largely because, in addition to the fact 
that the synchronization was not good, there 
existed, at that time, no satisfactory method of 
amplifying the sound of the gramophone, 
although mention should be made of Tomassin's 


Animatophone and a wonderful compressed air 
sound device called the Stentophone, which made 
its appearance shortly afterwards. 

Mr. Hepworth was, however, able to sell the 
rights of his invention to America for a consider- 
able sum, and it is of interest to remember that the 
first universally successful talkies — The Singing 
Fool and The Jat^ Singer — were recorded on the 
Vitaphone system, Mr. Hepworth's device having 
been called the Vivaphone. 

It is, however, of great interest to note that the 
idea of applying voices to existing films has of 
late been greatly developed, and in a most ingeni- 
ous manner, and that this phase of Talkie activity 
has come to the rescue of many who were landed 
with large stocks of silent films. 

A great deal of experimental work was done 
both in America and in Europe, and had it not 
been for the lack of means of making the whis- 
pered message of the photo cells loud enough, 
there is no doubt that Talkies would have come 
ten years ago, because a great deal of interest 
was being taken in the idea about that time. 

It is true that various efforts had been made to 
devise sound amplifiers, and a good deal of that 
work was done in an effort to make microphones 
which would control sufficiently large power to 


make long-distance wireless telephony possible. 
I believe that as many as thirty microphones 
coupled up together were used when the first 
words were radioed across the Atlantic. 

A great deal of ingenuity was expended in this 
direction, and some microphones were used 
experimentally which would control electric 
currents equivalent to many horse-power, using 
various liquids to keep them from catching fire. 

Another way of attacking the problem was to 
make use of an effect which had been noticed 
some years previously, and which had been used 
in attempts to increase the range of searchlight 
telephones similar to those of Herr Ruhmer and 

The principle involved was roughly as follows : 

Quite a small microphone was associated in a 
special way with an electric arc-light, which had 
been arranged so that it would generate the 
oscillations necessary to transmit a wireless wave ; 
variations in the microphone, which was con- 
nected to the arc-light, caused certain changes in 
the electrical condition of the space between the 
two carbon rods from which the familiar brilliant 
glow emerges. Words spoken into the micro- 
phone caused sympathetic variations in the 
strength of the wireless wave emitted by the arc. 


This idea is worth mentioning because it was 
the subject of a determined attempt to produce a 
Talking Picture in 192 1, after the War which called 
a halt on so many promising lines of research, 
and hastened the development of others less 
worthy of attention. 

An American, Mr. Delmar Whitson, was the 
hero of this latest endeavour, and he was as 
unfortunate as the others, as we shall see; but 
through no fault of the system which he devised. 

Whitson was attracted by the success of 
Ruhmer's work in recording sound on film, and 
tried to do the same by using the light from a 
speaking arc, as it was called, the light from which 
he focused through a series of lenses and a narrow 
slit on to the passing film. Most of us have noticed 
how the arc-lamps, which were, until recently, 
used for street lighting, spluttered : Whitson was 
seriously bothered by this. The smallest amount 
of spluttering was, of course, fatal to his work, 
as it was immediately photographed on to the 
film. Whitson did not have the benefit of photo- 
electric cells, and he very soon found out that the 
selenium cells which he was able to procure or 
make suffered from the faults already mentioned, 
and, in addition, were themselves a source of 
troublesome noises, which he was not able to 


cure. He tried every conceivable idea which 
could possibly have any value for his work, and 
exploited every known method of modulating or 
shuttering his recording light. 

He did some valuable work with light "valves," 
formed of certain liquids, which were known to 
affect the passage of light through them when 
they were subjected to varying electrical pressures. 
He tried, too, to make use of the knowledge that 
some materials will twist a ray of light under cer- 
tain electrical conditions, and, quite apart from 
the fact that the conclusions that he reached were 
of the utmost value to other experimenters who 
followed him, he did succeed in producing a very 
tolerable Talking Picture as soon as he was able 
to make use of the then newly invented amplifier 
valve to render his speech and music audible to a 
large audience. 

It will be of interest to wireless "fans" to know 
that he actually made a moving coil loudspeaker 
many years before it found a more universal use 
in radio broadcasting. 

Whitson was no more lucky with the Movie 
magnates of the day whom he approached with 
his invention than were other inventors. Not 
because his machine was defective in any way, 
but simply and solely because they did not see 


why they should bother with any further com- 
plications to their work, which was already 
making as much money as they could turn over 
in twenty-four hours. 

Not for the first time a deserving idea was 
ignored while the financiers stacked up their 
money-bags, and it was not until the shadow of 
bankruptcy was beginning to darken the interiors 
of their palatial homes that they sought des- 
perately for some new and startling line of acti- 
vity, and poured every remaining cent that they 
could raise into the production of the first 
Talkies. As it turned out, these made a fortune 
for their sponsors, Messrs. Warner Brothers, and 
by their success established themselves as a new 
form of entertainment. 

A German firm had in the meanwhile, as early 
as 1 9 19, produced complete designs and given 
practical demonstrations of a Talking Picture 
system, and most investigators into the technique 
of Talking Pictures will admit that they at least 
found interest in the Triergon patents. 

The first man to have any success commercially 
with sound films, before the recent furore, was 
Mr. De Forest, the scientist, who gave to the 
world the amplifier valve, the importance of 
which has been compared by some with the 


Al Tolson. 

\Cour!csy of Warner Bros. 

[To face page 25. 


invention of steam. Whether or not so big a 
claim is justified I cannot say, but Talking Pic- 
tures were only one of many branches of scien- 
tific development which leapt forward under the 
magic touch of these tiny glowing bulbs with 
their enormous powers of amplification and 
lightning response to feeble and hitherto hardly 
guessed at impulses of one kind or another. 

If The Ja%% Singer and The Singing Fool had 
failed, it is fairly safe to say that Talkies would 
have had to wait a few more years before they 
made their debut. As it is they were followed by a 
wild scramble by every film company for apparatus 
to make films talk, which has been very success- 
fully exploited by electrical concerns, who had 
been studying and improving upon Lauste's 
expired patents, and waiting their opportunity. 

The particular system on which The Singing 
Tool and The Ja%% Singer were recorded was the 
Vitaphone of the Western Electric Company of 
America, whereby a 1 6-inch gramophone record 
is synchronised with each reel of film. 

Close on the heels of Vitaphone came the Fox- 
Case "Movietone," which photographs the sound 
record on to the side of the picture. Both Movie- 
tone and Vitaphone employ certain devices 
patented by the Western Electric Company of 


America, and any recordings on either of these 
processes have come to be known as "Western 

Next in the field was the Radio Corporation of 
America with their Photophone system, which 
also photographs the sound on the side of the 
film, but in a different manner from either De 
Forest or Movietone, in that the latter employ 
what is known as the variable density system, 
which to the eye looks like a series of lines of the 
same length, but varying in intensity from very 
light grey to deep black. The Radio Corporation 
of America use a method of recording known as 
the variable area method, about which I shall 
have a good deal to say later in comparing it 
with the variable density method used by British 
Talking Pictures and the Western Electric Com- 
pany when they are recording on films instead of 
gramophone records. 

There are many other methods and systems, 
but they all employ variants of the principles 
which I have mentioned, and which will be 
investigated more fully in the following chapter. 



It is not intended to pad out this chapter with a 
lot of scientific figures which can be found in any 
textbook, and we are lucky in not having to 
plough through a long rigmarole, or over page 
after page of diagrams and mathematical formulas 
which look like the name of a Welsh town. 

The only thing which we have to know a little 
about is the question of sound, because after all 
that is what the book is about. 

There is no need, however, to be musty about it, 
or to put on a "cap and gown" air, because, like 
many things which seem very mysterious, the 
reasons for them are frequently to be found in 
our own back garden or lying about in the road. 
The "unusual" frequently turns out to be the 
"commonplace" dressed up in a paper cap and 
standing on its head. 

An important point about this film sound-record 
business is that, whereas it looks as if the manu- 
facturers of gramophone records have reached 
a stage when they are going to be hard put to it 
to reproduce very much better records, there 
seems no reason whatever why the film record 


will not make it possible eventually to reproduce 
sound with perfection and completeness which 
will surpass the wildest dreams of past workers. 

The fact of the matter is that the gramophone- 
record people are up against a vicious circle of 
problems ; if they get one solved, they find that it 
is extraordinarily difficult to solve another, so that 
they have to compromise and do each job as well 
as they dare without upsetting the others. 

The main reasons for this state of affairs are not 
obscure scientific notions, but perfectly ordinary 
facts, and are therefore worth considering here. 

Sound is caused by something vibrating — it 
does not matter if it is a telegraph wire humming a 
tune to itself on a windy day, or the paper cone of 
a wireless loudspeaker. 

As soon as you vibrate something so that it 
stirs up the surrounding air more than sixteen 
times a second, you produce a sound. 

The slower you vibrate, the lower the note you 
produce — sixteen vibrations a second will produce 
those great booming notes from the huge 64-foot 
pipes of a big organ ; they are, in fact, so low that 
one can almost feel them rather than hear them. 
The whole question of what sound is has tickled 
the imagination of scientists for many a century. 
There have always been inquisitive literal-minded 


folk who have spent their lives asking about 
things which most people take for granted. In 
times gone by they used to get themselves into 
serious trouble; you will remember how poor 
Galileo nearly got himself burned at the stake 
for having the impudence to suggest that the 
world went round the sun instead of the other 
way about. The ecclesiastical "highbrows" of the 
time bullied him so much that they actually per- 
suaded him to sign a document saying that he had 
been talking nonsense; but even that did not 
prevent the old gentleman being distinctly heard 
to mutter, as he pushed his way out of the hall, 
"For all that it does" 

It was Galileo, by the way, who noticed that 
the longer a pendulum was, the slower would be 
the period of its swing, which has a parallel in 
the organ pipes, the slow vibrating low notes 
being produced by huge pipes 64 feet long, the 
shrill high notes coming from pipes little larger 
than a lead pencil. 

It boils down to this, that the size of things 
which are producing sounds has a great deal to 
do with the pitch of the sound they make, and 
that things of certain size will always prefer to 
vibrate at certain notes rather than at others. That 
is one of the most difficult problems that the 


sound-recorder has to face, because it means that 
unless he is very careful about the dimensions of 
the various sections of his sound-recording appa- 
ratus, he will find that certain notes will be repro- 
duced more loudly, and others more weakly, than 
they ought ; producing, for instance, among other 
symptoms, the effect of someone speaking through 
their nose. The early gramophones sounded tinny 
and horny for at least two reasons, the first being 
that the reproducing arrangements were fright- 
fully resonant because the dimensions of the 
various pieces they were composed of made them 
reproduce some notes too loud and ignore others ; 
the second being that they had very short horns, 
which made it difficult for the lower notes to 
emerge at the same strength as the higher ones. 

Scientists have shown that if you really want 
to make a horn that will do justice to the lowest 
notes, it must be at least 7 or 8 feet long. The 
problem of getting such a bulky affair into the 
cabinet of a gramophone has been overcome by 
curling the horn round itself, the famous "His 
Master's Voice" Re-entrant horn being the most 
perfect example. 

Every note has its own special speed of vibra- 
tion, otherwise it would not be that note ! Middle 
C will be produced by anything being vibrated 


256 times a second, be it a lamp-post or the string 
of a fiddle. 

An octave above C is exactly twice the number 
of vibrations, and an octave above that, twice 
that again. There is no need to go into this 
point any further, for the purpose of this book, 
beyond stating that all "notes" are mathe- 
matically related. This fact greatly facilitates the 
scientific design of sound-reproducing apparatus, 
and enables the engineer to work on a mathe- 
matical basis. 

It is a great temptation at this point to indulge in 
an orgy of graphs and other mathematical matters, 
but we must stick to our bargain and only say just 
as much as is necessary to make the nature of 
sound clear. A great deal of work has been done 
to find out the speeds at which various sounds 
occur. The things that make speech really under- 
standable are the constant-sounds, F, S, Th, Z, 
and so on ; the speeds of vibration which make 
these very important sounds are from 1,000 to 
at least 8,000 vibrations per second. If, therefore, 
a sound-reproducer is to be actually perfect, it 
has got to handle a whole range of vibration 
speeds from at least 20 to 8,000 per second. 
The extraordinary thing is that there isn't one 
that does, and there is a good deal of guessing 


going on, which we are not aware of when we 
listen to the average record or wireless loud- 
speaker. In the same way that it is possible to 
make out the sense of a telegram, one word of 
which is missing or wrong, so the ear is able to 
make an intelligent guess at what a record says 
even though sometimes the consonants are only 
hinted at. Indeed, it is possible to reproduce 
understandable speech on a record which will 
not handle more than 5,000 vibrations per second. 

The ear tells the brain to put in what ought to 
be there — an extremely clever business. 

There will be some who will ask themselves, as 
they read these words : "If a given note is always 
the same speed of vibration, how is it possible to 
tell the difference between, say, the note of a 
violin and that of a flute?" In point of fact, if 
you vibrate anything electrically or otherwise, 
you hardly ever get a pure tone — it always sounds 
like something. You may not recognise what it is 
like, but it has a distinct character of its own, so 
that you would recognise it if you heard it again. 

To produce a pure tone of a certain pitch as 
opposed to a note, the most elaborate precautions 
have to be taken to see that the only thing present 
is the actual vibration which gives the pitch 
you want. You have to get rid of all other odd 


sounds. Perhaps I should not say odd sounds, 
because they are usually very closely related to 
the "fundamental" or the pitch we want. The 
reason why any sound has character is that it 
brings along with it harmonics of itself — a bunch 
of cousins and aunts as it were. The first harmonic 
of a note is the fundamental vibration or required 
pitch multiplied by 2, the second the fundamental 
multiplied by 3, and so forth. It is the presence of 
these harmonics to a greater or lesser degree 
that gives the character to any particular note and 
enables us to tell, for instance, what instrument is 
being played, or to recognise a person's voice. 
The instruments which are richest in these har- 
monics, especially the first harmonic, are the harp, 
the piano, and the organ, whose range of vibra- 
tions extends from 16 to 9,000 per second. 

So we see that if we take the musical scale as 
extending from about 20 vibrations a second to 
about 6,000, and then allow for at least one 
harmonic, we have to account for a range of 
vibrations of from 20 to at least 10,000 vibrations 
per second, which even then is not enough to give 

Having got these few facts into our head, we 
may proceed to find out why it is that the record- 
makers are having such a stiff time, and why the 


film method of sound-recording holds out very- 
high hopes indeed of enabling very much better 
sound-recording to be achieved, provided that 
the difficulties which are being encountered at 
present can be overcome, and there is no sign at 
present that they will not. 

When a record is made the sound causes a 
sharp cutter to move from side to side as it 
follows the spiral track on the blank record or 
"wax" on which the original record is made; 
a wobbly slot is produced which will in turn 
cause the needle of the gramophone to go through 
the movements of the cutter which originally made 
the groove, so reproducing the original sound. 

The records which you buy are not, of course, 
the actual ones which were cut when the record- 
ing was done; they are copies made by a most 
ingenious process, which is unfortunately far too 
long to go into now, except to say that the slab 
of wax which receives the original cutting has a 
thick coating of metal given it by electrical means, 
the inner surface of which, of course, carries the 
reversed impression of the original sound track — 
a very tricky business. 

In early methods of recording, the singer or 
speaker actually sang into a huge trumpet in the 
end of which was placed a vibrating surface to 


which was attached the groove-cutting apparatus. 
Now, however, microphones have taken the 
place of the horn, and the cutter is vibrated by 
the aid of an electro-magnet controlled by the 
fluctuating electric currents from the microphone. 
Most of us know that if something is stretched 
across something else — a piece of paper across a 
box, perhaps — a drum-like effect is produced and 
a definite note is given out. If the paper is 
stretched further that note will be higher, or if the 
paper surface is very much larger and less tightly 
stretched that note will be lower. These notes 
are resonances, such as I have mentioned earlier, 
that is to say, they are the notes which the paper 
prefers, as it were, to vibrate at most. Practically 
all structures, be they drums, recording dia- 
phragms, or levers of one sort or another, have at 
least one resonance, sometimes more than one; 
and it will, as we have said, be obvious that if a 
reproducing machine or a recording machine is to 
deal faithfully with each note in due proportion 
to the others, resonances must as far as possible 
be eliminated. That is a very difficult thing to 
do. The early recording diaphragms with their 
cutting-knife attachment had to be sensitive and 
mobile in order to give enough movement direct 
to the knife, and were, therefore, particularly 


phone to resonances. The microphone method 
has the advantage, among others, that the micro- 
phone diaphragm need not be very sensitive be- 
cause, however minute the electrical currents are, 
they can be amplified by valve amplifiers until 
they are sufficiently powerful to work an electrical 
record-cutter of such massive and rugged con- 
struction that it will ignore resonances and other 
distorting influences, such as the drag of the wax 
that is being cut, and move only exactly in the 
way that they are told to move by the microphones 
hanging in the recording studios. 

A particularly pretty method of avoiding a 
resonance is to accept the fact that there is going 
to be one whatever steps are taken to prevent it, 
and to side-track it by arranging that it shall be of 
such a high pitch that it is far above any note or 
speed of vibration that can possibly spoil the job 
in hand. The Western Electric microphones are 
arranged in this manner, the resonance being put 
out of harm's way by stretching the diaphragm 
to such an extent that the resonance occurs at a 
speed of vibration that is so terrific that it cannot 
be heard at all ! 

The Radio Corporation of America do the same 
thing with their recording mirrors ; these are so 
tuned that their natural resonance is somewhere 


in the neighbourhood of 10,000 vibrations per 

The cutter must of course have a very small 
point indeed, how small will be gauged by the 
fact that one "wobble" of the cutter which is 
recording the vibrations of a note about the 
top of the piano only occupies a space of about 
two-thousandths of an inch of the spiral track 
along which it is travelling ! So that not only must 
the wax be of exceedingly fine texture to offer a 
smooth enough surface to so minute a movement, 
but the needles of the gramophones must be 
correspondingly fine if they are to fit into the 

It may come as a surprise to my readers to 
realise that they are imposing a force of nearly 
two tons to the square inch on the records of 
their gramophone every time they lower the 
sound-box on to them to start a tune! That 
sounds a huge figure, but it is none the less true, 
and is a very good instance of a very ordinary fact 
standing on its head and looking ferocious. The 
pressure on the groove of a record can be truly 
crushing, and is, in fact, so great that if the point 
of some cheap or shoddy needles are examined 
under a microscope they will be found to have 
been bent over in the form of a hook, which is 


ploughing up the record so that it will be ruined 
in no time. It is tempting to ask how it is possible 
for a small sound-box, weighing only a few 
ounces, to exert such a terrific pressure. The 
point, of course, is that the pressure is per square 
inch, and the point of the needle cannot be 
more than somewhere in the neighbourhood of 
six-thousandths of an inch in diameter, otherwise 
it would not fit into the fine wobbles of the sound 
track when high notes are being played. 

The question arises as to how this gruelling 
pressure can be reduced; one way would be to 
make the needle blunter, but that is not possible 
for the reason that we have just mentioned; 
another alternative is to speed the record up so that 
by drawing out the wobbles a blunter needle 
could be used. If, however, this is done, the 
public would only get half as much tune for 
their money as they have done up to the present, 
and, in addition, would have to be continually 
changing records unless they were made of a far 
greater size, similar to the 20-inch used forTalking 
Pictures records. If, however, an attempt were 
made to sell records of a larger size than 12-inch, 
the majority of purchasers would return home 
only to find that they could not get them on to 
their machines, and that if they could the motor 


would in all probability have difficulty in driving 
the record round owing to the increased load at 
the outside of the record. 

The needle pressure with the very fine needles 
which would be necessary for the correct recording 
of vibrations of over 5 ,000 vibrations per minute, 
at the speeds at which the usual gramophone is 
designed to revolve, is so great that, while it is 
perfectly possible to make a wax that has a fine 
enough surface texture to justify the use of such 
needles, it has not been found practicable to make 
a saleable record material which combines the 
desired smoothness of texture and a sufficiently 
hard surface to withstand the wear of being 
played many hundreds of times. The disc sound- 
records are only supplied by some Talkie con- 
cerns on the strict understanding that they are 
not to be used more than a certain number of 

It is usual with some recording companies to 
have two recording machines at work when an 
artist is being recorded, in order that there may 
be one wax left intact for the factory when the 
other is "played back" to the artist for his 
approval. As we should expect, it is the high 
frequencies that suffer when the "wax" is played 
back more than two or three times, and in spite of 


the most elaborate experimental work this weaken- 
ing of the higher frequencies may be as much as 
50 per cent, of their original strength. 

Even if we assume, for argument's sake, that a 
record material has been produced which has all 
the points that are desirable, we are still little 
better off, because a fresh problem arises. It is 
essential that the needle should fit the groove as 
exactly as possible, even when the record has 
become worn after prolonged use, and, paradoxical 
as the remedy may seem, a small amount of 
abrasive or grinding material is incorporated in 
the material of which the record is made, in 
order actually to grind the needle point to the 
desired shape. This is one of the reasons why 
records have a few blank turns at the beginning, 
in order that the bulk of the grinding-in process 
may occur before the needle reaches the portion of 
the track on which the sound is recorded. 

There is yet one more little matter with which 
the record manufacturers have to contend, which 
imposes yet further limits on the chances of 
producing a record which can pretend to be any- 
thing but a compromise with reality; and while 
we laugh at the literal minds of the scientists, they 
have the laugh over the record manufacturers 
when a problem of the correct recording of 


extremes of loudness and softness has to be 

There is the story which has been told about 
practically even* well-known man of science, of 
the inventor who had a cat to which he was ve re- 
attached. This little beast liked to be wherever 
its master was, and, having searched the house 
until it found him, used to scratch on the door 
of his laboratory where he was deep in all sorts of 
complicated mathematical affairs, until he had to 
leave his work and open the door to let it in. The 
scientist therefore cut a little hole so that it 
could squeeze in without disturbing his cogita- 
tions. One day the cat committed the indiscretion 
of having some kittens, so the scientist, being a 
good scientist, cut another hole a little smaller to 
let the kittens in as well. 

It has been ascertained that the energy neces- 
sary to produce a sound that is so loud that it 
approaches the point when it begins, as it were, 
to hurt, is well over a million times greater than 
the energy required to produce one that can only 
just be heard. \\~hile such extremes are not met 
with in the normal course of recording work, 
this huge difference of energy, and, therefore, 
movement of the recording wax-cutter, imposes 
serious limitations on the correct reproduction of 


the variations of loudness and softness met with 
in orchestral and instrumental work. 

Unless the playing-time of a record is to be 
considerably reduced by only allowing a smaller 
number of more widely spaced turns of the sound 
track, there is clearly a limit to the movement of 
the cutter from side to side. The usual distance 
allowed between each turn of the spiral track is in 
the neighbourhood of four-thousandths of an 
inch, and therefore the cutter may not move more 
than two-thousandths of an inch on either side of 
the track, even on the loudest passages, because 
if it did it would encroach on the turns of track 
lying adjacent to it. 

If, therefore, the movement of the cutter is 
limited to a movement of two-thousandths of an 
inch on the loud passages, and if the correct 
loudness contrast is to be recorded for a very 
soft passage, the cutter would only have to move 
one-millionth part of two-thousandths of an inch, 
which represents a movement of — well, I pro- 
mised not to drag in a lot of figures, so I had 
better leave it by saying that if it were possible to 
make a record of such perfect texture to record so 
tiny a movement, it would not be able to grind 
the needle into shape; and if we could make a 
needle with so fine a point, the pressure on the 


record would be so terrific that the needle would 
either collapse or split the track. 

The only thing to do is to see that the sound is 
kept between limits of loudness and softness, 
which are not by any means always those dictated 
by the musical values. 

The gramophone record of to-day, however 
perfect it may sound, is not within many miles of 
perfection. It is a brilliant series of compromises 
against the enormous difficulty of making a sale- 
able record : 

i . Which will record real notes below those an 
octave above the bottom of the piano, and up to 
those vibrations which are just sufficiently rapid 
to give anything more than a suggestion of the 
consonants in speech. 

2. On which it is possible to give accurate 
contrasts of loudness and softness. 

It is small wonder that recording engineers have 
turned to light-recording on film as a w T ay out 
from these problems which they have been trying 
to compromise with for so long. 

It must not be thought, however, that the 
gramophone record companies are not making 
progress. The comparatively enormous frequency 
of 15,000 vibrations a second has actually been 
"cut" satisfactorily. The problem, of course, is to 


get it off the record again for the reasons I have 
stated, and the added difficulty that at very high 
frequencies the "wobbles" of the track would 
become so short that no practical needle would 
fit them. 

Continuous strip recording has the great 
advantages that the contrasts of volume are not 
limited by the sound track lying against itself as 
in the spiral record, and the fact that it is possible 
to make a continuous record which will play, 
within reasonable limits, for as long as is necessary, 
without the necessity of changing anything. A 
whole play or opera, or even a whole book can 
be reproduced without interruption of any 

A ray of light or an electrical impulse has no 
physical weight, and where electrical resonances 
occur they can be dealt with far more expedi- 
tiously than their mechanical brethren, even 
though the electrical equivalents of both weight 
and inertia exist, both of which have been so 
brilliantly demonstrated by the "His Master's 
Voice" experts. 

In principle light can be varied in intensity 
instantaneously in sympathy with the messages 
from the microphones by suitably arranging the 
source of illumination so that it throws a pin- 


A Variable Density Film Record. 

[Courtesy o] the Western Electric Co. 
[To face page 44. 


A Film S ho win- 

Variable Area Sound-Track. 

[Courtesy of the Radio Corporation of America. 
[To face page 45 


point, or thin slot of light, on to the photographic 

i. Any variation of the Intensity of the light 
will be faithfully recorded on the passing film in 
streaks of varying "greyness." 

2. Any movement of the ray of light, which can 
be caused to wobble either by a mirror or some 
other electrical means, will be shown as a zigzag 
area of clear film and densely exposed black 

The first of these methods is called the 
"Variable Density" method, and the second the 
"Variable Area" method. 

Lauste, you will remember, mentioned both 
these ideas. We read in his patent specification : 

We record them [the sound waves] photographically in 
varying degrees as area . . . intensity, and corresponding 
effects of light and shade. 

The photographs show both these methods 
"on separate parts or in separate positions of . . . 
the same transparent medium" — so here was the 
idea of the combined picture and sound-record 
written down in black and white twenty-three 
years ago ! 

We shall see later that the idea of having the 
sound-record on the same film as the picture 


may have disadvantages which, however, Lauste 
could not possibly have foreseen. One of them is 
that the sound-record tends to get worn out more 
quickly than the picture, and the other is a 
photographic one which I shall also discuss 
when we go into the troubles of the film pro- 
ducers and the laboratory folk who have to 
develop the films and make the sensitive 

There are various methods of causing a fluctuat- 
ing amount of light to fall on a film for recording 
by the variable density method. The ideal arrange- 
ment would undoubtedly be to secure a lamp 
which would sympathetically and accurately vary 
its illumination under the influence of the micro- 
phone and which at the same time was reliable. 

It is true that some lamps are available which 
will do this, but they have not proved altogether 
satisfactory. The ordinary filament type of lamp 
is not suitable for direct light modulation, but 
lamps of the type familiar to the reader as Osglim 
lamps, which are used for lighting passages and 
suchlike places, and which depend for their action 
on the fact that an electric current will cause certain 
gases to glow under suitable conditions, have 
been modified to meet the requirements of Talkie 


The method employed is to start and keep the 
lamp glowing by applying to it a suitable electrical 
potential and then to superimpose further electri- 
cal fluctuations from a valve amplifier which is 
controlled by the studio microphones. Unfortu- 
nately, however, this type of lamp is not neces- 
sarily entirely reliable, and is apt, among other 
things, to go out — quite apart from the fact that 
the illumination variation is not always strictly 
proportional to the strength variations of the 
microphone impulses except between rather 
narrow limits, and that its light is generally 
rather poor. 

A further problem to be faced is that, except 
over a certain range of densities, the response of 
the light-sensitive emulsions available for sound- 
recording films are, like the response of the 
lamps, not always in strict proportion to, in this 
case, the amount of light falling on to them, except 
within certain narrow limits; that is to say, at 
certain strengths of illumination an increase of 
illumination will not always produce the same 
increase in density. 

Again, unless the illumination is sufficiently 
powerful, very full "modulation" of the light by 
the microphone might result in certain kinds of 
lamp being at times almost extinguished, with 


consequent under-exposure of certain portions of 
the sound track in a desperate attempt to cover the 
range of sound-contrast required for the artistic 
reproduction of whatever is being recorded. 

One way in which the problem is being attacked 
is to maintain the glow discharge by means of a 
subsidiary hot filament, similar to that seen in 
household bulbs. It seems likely that, while the 
control of the glow by the direct application 
of fluctuating potentials from the microphone 
amplifiers may not prove entirely satisfactory, 
some such subsidiary glow-maintaining device 
and another means of controlling it externally 
will eventually emerge and prove sufficiently 
adequate to satisfy the exacting standard of such 
places as the Gramophone Company's magnificent 
laboratories at Hayes, which, while little known 
to the millions who use their products, are a 
household word in the world of science, and 
from whose test benches and microscopic appara- 
tus emerge those refinements which are the key 
to public satisfaction and that commercial pros- 
perity with which the company is rewarded for 
its enterprise. 

Academic research is rarely spectacular except 
to the initiated, but by it and by no other means 
can perfection be reached. Many of the Talking 


Picture magnates of to-day who are relying on 
empirical experiments and the tolerance of to-day's 
cinema audiences, will regret in the not too distant 
future that, in their rush to exploit the public's 
excited appreciation of the novelty of the Talking 
Picture, they did not have the enterprise to devote 
some time, and at least a proportion of the huge 
funds which have been entrusted to their care, 
to wringing from reluctant nature that last 
fraction of efficiency which is the difference 
between that which will do for the time being 
and that which will stand the test of time and 
the ever-growing scrutiny of public discrimi- 

There are various methods of externally con- 
trolling the amount of light falling on the film. 
One of these relies on the property of certain 
liquids to alter their optical characteristics under 
the influence of electrical potentials, others on 
various forms of electrically operated shutter 
devices. These shutters are of various types. If a 
fine wire is stretched between the poles of a 
magnet and is supplied with fluctuating electrical 
impulses it will move slightly from side to side. 
If this wire is therefore placed before a suitably 
narrow slit so that when it is at rest it closes that 
slit, any movement which it makes will allow light 



to pass on to the film on which the sound is 
being recorded. This system has the advantage 
of allowing a light of any convenient power to 
be used, and does not reduce the amount of light 
available for the film to the extent which the 
electro-optical shutters are apt to do. 

The Western Electrical Company, who use the 
variable density method, make use of a loop of 
wire to "shutter" the light which is to fall on to 
the film. One side of this loop passes down 
between the magnets and the other side passes 
upwards. The electrical impulses from the micro- 
phone pass therefore down one side in one direc- 
tion and up the other side in the opposite direction, 
the two sides of the loop moving in opposite 
directions, at one moment closing together and 
at the next separating from each other, the light 
being passed through the space between the 
two wires as they quiver with the message from 
the microphones. Only a narrow slit of light 
reaches the film, and this is obtained by an 
optical method because, among other things, 
it would be very difficult to keep a mechanical 
slit only a thousandth of an inch wide free from 
dirt and dust. The light is therefore passed 
through a slit of conveniently large dimensions, 
and the image of this slit is reduced in size by a 


series of lenses until it appears on the film 
exactly the right size. 

The Radio Corporation of America use a 
similar image of a slit rather than the actual slit 
itself, but as they use the variable area method of 
recording, their light arrangements are slightly 
different. They also employ a wire down which 
a current is passing placed near a magnet. But 
while their wire is also arranged in the form of 
a loop, in the R.C.A. recorder the whole loop 
tries to twist when a current passes round it. 
On this loop is mounted a tiny mirror which 
twitches this way and that, when the vibrating 
currents from the microphone pass round the 
loop of wire to which it is attached. A ray of 
light which is focused on to this mirror is 
therefore moved backwards and forwards across 
the slit, making the zigzag margin between the 
clear and exposed film. The recording range of 
these commercial light-recorders has until re- 
cently been limited to about 7,000 vibrations per 
second. The "His Master's Voice" engineers 
have however recently staggered the scientific 
and motion-picture world by demonstrating a 
commercial film recorder which will record 
nearly double the range of vibrations possible 
before, of 25 to 15,000 vibrations per second ! 


There is a very great deal to be said for the 
variable area method of recording ; to begin with, 
there are no delicate graduations of exposure 
which have to be, as we shall see later, treated 
with such elaborate care; the record is mainly 
either black or white. In practice it is claimed 
that it is possible to handle faithfully a far greater 
range of modulations than with the other method. 
In addition to this there is not much risk of under- 
exposing or over-exposing the film as with the 
variable density record, because the light is always 
of the same strength, a point which is of the 
utmost assistance to the laboratory people who 
have to develop and print the film. 

So much for the actual photography of the 
sound and the two most important ways of doing 
it. Now for the reproduction of the recorded 
sound and the means which are employed to turn 
the message of the tiny streaks on the film into 
enough sound to fill a theatre holding two or 
three thousand people. 

We have read about the selenium cell used by 
Bell and those who followed him, and we know 
that Lauste used selenium and that Whitson 
found that it had certain drawbacks. Although 
selenium has been tried again recently its chief 
fault is that it fails to reproduce evenly 


A Western Electric Photo-Cell. 

[Courtesy of the Western Electric Co. 

[To face page 53. 


all speeds of vibration, imparting to sounds 
false characteristics, and among other things 
giving a husky character to music, which is 
anything but pleasant. 

It is not surprising to learn, therefore, that it is 
not selenium that the giant 2-ton Talkie projectors 
obey to-day, but another type of "photo cell," 
which, instead of merely altering the resistance 
it offers to an electric current, actually creates 
one whose strength varies in sympathy with the 
strength of the light falling on it. 

To get the broad idea of how these cells are 
used in reproducing the sound from the film, we 
need only turn back to Lauste's specification and 
substitute a "photo cell" for the selenium which 
he experimented with and mentions in his 
specification : 

When such record is made we reproduce it by causing 
light to pass through that portion of the medium [film] 
containing the record of the impressions [the picture] and 
so project them on to the screen simultaneously causing 
light to pass through that portion of the medium [film] 
containing the record of the sound to a cell of selenium 
[now a photo cell], or other suitable substance by which 
the varying degrees of light and shade of the record 
[film] are [re] converted into correspondingly varying 
electric currents which are . . . converted [transformed] 
into sound vibrations by a suitable vibrating medium 
[the loudspeakers]. 


The photo-electric cells are absolutely instan- 
taneous in responding to the fluctuations of light 
up to enormous speeds, and are perfectly capable 
of handling the upper limit of 10,000 vibrations 
per second which the Talkie engineers are 
aiming at. 

It is interesting to notice how closely allied 
these photo-electric cells are to the wireless valves 
of the present day which actually have made their 
use possible. 

It has been known for many years that if certain 
kinds of light illuminated the plates of certain 
metals, the spaces round these plates were charged 
with negative electricity. 

In 1883, Edison, in America, and Professor 
Fleming, who was electrical adviser to the Edison 
Electric Light Company in London, were puzzling 
over certain problems in connection with the 
manufacture of electric-light bulbs. Both in- 
ventors noticed that as the carbon filament 
lamps of that day grew old, their light was 
greatly diminished by the formation of a dark 
cloud on the inside of the glass. Some readers 
may remember this trouble. Edison and Fleming 
were particularly puzzled by the fact that espe- 
cially in burnt-out lamps there were patches of 
comparatively clear glass. A series of experi- 


ments showed that these clear portions occurred 
where the glass had been protected by the intact 
portion of the filament from the spot where it 
had actually burnt through, that is, where there 
had been an excessive amount of heat generated. 
It was ascertained that when certain metals are 
heated they, like the metal plates under the in- 
fluence of light, surround themselves also with 
a cloud of negative electricity, and that there- 
fore there are at least two ways of causing a 
metal to release this cloud: (i) by shining a light 
on to it, (2) by heating it. 

The minute electrical impulses from the photo- 
electric cell, where action depends on the first 
method, are strengthened by their cousins the 
amplifier valves, which rely on the second method, 
in order that they may be used for controlling the 
loudspeakers in the cinemas. 

Let it not be forgotten that it was Mr. Lee de 
Forest, the inventor of the three-electrode wire- 
less valve, who first showed a practical Talking 
picture, using sound photographed on to a 

The photo-electric cell of the Talkie projector is 
a metal plate on which a light is shining through 
the film which carries the sound-images. As the 
film passes between it and the light, so the amount 


of the light on the cell varies, and the varying 
amount of electricity given off is collected and 
passed on to the amplifiers and loudspeakers 
behind the screen. 

We are in a position now to follow out exactly 
what does happen both in the cameras in the 
studios and Talkie projectors in the cinemas. 
We have seen that there are two methods of 
recording the sound on the film: the "Variable 
Area" method, by which the position of the light 
falling on to the film is altered so that the record 
takes the form of a zigzag area of dense black 
and clear celluloid ; and the "Variable Density" 
method by which the strength of the light is 
varied, the record in this case taking the form of 
continuously varied grey to dark streaks. 

We have gone into the question of what means 
are employed to produce these results so that we 
need only concern ourselves with the general 
functioning of both cameras and projectors. 

When recording is being done the sound-record 
is sometimes photographed directly on the picture 
film, in the same camera, but usually this is only 
done in the case of "news reels" when it is not 
possible to carry round heavy studio apparatus. 

When this method is employed this is what 
happens : 


There are, of course, two film magazines on the 
camera, the top one to hold the unexposed film, 
and the lower one to hold the film which has been 
past the lenses. The film passes from the upper 
magazine down past the picture lenses first, and 
the picture is photographed on to it; in order 
to photograph the necessary series of still pictures, 
the film is held still for a fraction of a second 
before the next picture is taken; this happens 
about sixteen times a second for ordinary film 
work, and about twenty-four times a second when 
a Talkie is being made. 

The film has then to be led to that portion of 
the camera where the part of it which is going to 
take the sound-record is to pass before the 
recording light, which is, of course, controlled 
by the microphones. It will be obvious that the 
film cannot be allowed to have a jerky motion 
as it passes through the sound-camera because if 
it had the sound would be reproduced in a series 
of squawks instead of a continuous music or 
speech. A loop is therefore left between the 
picture "gate" and that portion of the camera 
which records the sound, and as the film travels 
round this loop it gradually loses its jerky motion 
and passes in front of the recording light smoothly 
and continuously. 


In the case of the work in the studio it is 
usually found convenient not to have the sound- 
recording done in the studio itself, and two films 
are employed, one to receive the picture, the other 
to record the sound, the sound-recording camera 
being frequently situated some distance from the 
studio where it can be fixed firmly down and all 
possible precautions taken against vibration. The 
sound does not go straight to the sound-recording 
camera, but is passed through a special controlling 
device so that the amount of sound passed on to 
the film can be adjusted to studio conditions. 

The movement of actors about the "set" gave 
a good deal of trouble when the early and rather 
insensitive microphone swere first used, and un- 
less there was an engineer watching through a 
glass window looking on to the studio, the sound 
would suddenly become faint and the audience in 
the theatre would not be able to hear what was 
being said. This controlling work is very diffi- 
cult to do, and a great deal of skill is required, the 
controlling or "Monitoring" engineer having not 
only to see that the sound does not become too 
soft, but that a sudden shout does not cause the 
delicate amplifiers to become overloaded and 
therefore distort the speech or music, whichever 
the case may be. 


When the actors and actresses had to move 
about a lot several microphones were sometimes 
employed, concealed about the stage or "set" as 
it is called, in such positions that there would 
always be at least one near enough to be the 
correct distance from the actors as they moved 
about. When this was done the work of the 
controlling engineers became increasingly difficult. 
Not only did they have to watch the amount of 
sound passing to the recording camera, but they 
had to see that the microphone nearest the actor 
who was speaking was switched on and that the 
others were switched off. They had to follow 
the actors about with their microphones, switching 
them on and off as the members of the cast moved 
about the stage. This was done by means of a 

Although there are two schools of thought 
with regard to the use of multiple microphones, 
there is, I think, a definite move towards using 
only one, due to the fact that the modern micro- 
phone is perfectly capable of picking up sounds 
over a large area if it is properly handled. 

Separate microphones are still extensively used 
for "noises off" such as clocks ticking, the sound 
of the sea, or the noise of traffic. These noises 
have to be "faded in" through a Mixer at just 


the right strength and all the various sounds 
passed on together to the recording camera. 

The reader will be wondering how two separate 
films are synchronized ; there are various methods 
used, but we need only consider the two main 
types — the mechanical and the electrical methods. 

When mechanical synchronization was em- 
ployed, the sound- and picture-cameras were 
coupled together between motor and camera; 
the two cameras being absolutely linked together 
so that one could not move without the other. 
It will be obvious that this method has its dis- 
advantages because it means that two cameras 
cannot be far apart ; and it is not always possible 
to place the sound-recording camera in a place 
where it is really protected from interfering noises 
and vibrations. 

The electrical method is being used far more for 
studio work now, and enables the recording 
camera to be situated a considerable distance away 
if necessary. This is how it is done : 

Both the sound- and picture-cameras are driven 
by electric motors, instead of being turned by 
hand, as they used to be in the days of silent 
films ; these two motors are supplied with electricity 
from the same special dynamo, and therefore turn 
at exactly the same speed; if necessary two or 


more sound-cameras can be in operation at 

In a big film studio a difficulty occurs which 
will not be very obvious except to those engaged 
on the work; it is this : A number of "shots" are 
frequently taken of one scene under various 
conditions; for instance, the lighting may be 
altered or an actor may miss a word or a line, and 
it is not always easy to recognize after the lapse 
of sometimes a month or two what they refer 
to; the usual practice is to hold up a card with 
the particulars of the scene written on it before 
the camera, which then photographs it with the 
scene it refers to for a few seconds before it is 
withdrawn and the acting commences; this 
now has to be done on the sound-film as well, 
because this is even more difficult to recognize ! 
In fact it is quite impossible, unless the strip of 
film is run through a sound-projector, which 
would not even then tell which particular shot it 
belongs to. The number of the shot used to be 
telephoned through to the recording engineers, 
who held up before the sound-camera a similar 
board so that the details were also photographed 
alongside the sound-record for a few seconds or 
even the whole time, so that anyone taking up a 
strip of sound-film had only to glance at the details 


of the shot photographed on to it to know to 
which bit of the separate picture-film it belonged. 

There is a further difficulty ; while the picture- 
and sound-films are in their respective cameras 
they exactly synchronize, but they have to be 
taken out for development, and unless special 
precautions are taken to see that means are 
provided to enable the engineers to re-synchronize 
them, it would be practically impossible to do so. 
However, film camera-men are not beaten by that 
sort of thing ; on each film a series of special dots 
used to be marked at exactly the same time, so 
that when the two films were removed to the 
laboratories for development all that had to be 
done was to get the marks in a line with each 
other so that they corresponded. When the sound- 
films have been developed, much in the same 
way as an ordinary negative, and printed on to 
positive film, which corresponds to the printing 
paper of the amateur photographer, the picture 
is printed on first, and then the sound-negative 
is printed on to a strip of the positive film 
which has been masked while the picture was 

A very simple method has been developed in 
modern film studios for matching up sound- 
track and picture. It is called the "Clapstick," 


o fe 

H 5 


and is the sort of delightfully simple device 
which experience, and only experience, produces. 

When the director is ready, someone jumps in 
front of the camera and brings two specially 
constructed boards together with a loud clap. 
The actual point of impact of the boards is 
photographed by the picture camera. Instantane- 
ously with this, the sound is registered by the 
sound camera as a black smudge. 

However, we must not delve too deeply 
into the photographic side of the business at 
this point because we shall be dealing with that 
later on. 

We know what is required for the sound-repro- 
ducing part of the projector — a light sensitive cell 
and a source of light which is arranged to shine 
on to the cell through the film. The illustration 
shows an early arrangement which was made by 
British Talking Pictures for fitting on to any 
existing theatre projector. 

At the beginning there was undoubtedly a 
strong case for disc-records, because it then 
seemed likely that the sound-record on the same 
film as the picture, which looks such an attractive 
proposition, may have to be given up eventually 
for this reason: films get worn and scratched 
when they have been passed through the theatre 


machines a number of times. This does not matter 
so much as far as the picture portion is concerned ; 
the eye will stand a good deal of wear before the 
film looks worn and spotted ; but the ear is a good 
deal more fussy, and it seemed that the sound- 
record would get worn to a point when the 
"scratch" became irritating to the audience long 
before the picture was worn out ; and it looked as 
if it might be necessary to have separate sound- 
and picture-films so that the sound-film could be 
replaced when necessary, a fresh one being sup- 
plied, say, at each theatre at which the film was 
shown; even with discs certain companies insist 
on a limit of twenty playings per disc. Fresh 
records can be sent for any film at very short 
notice, in addition to the fact that sound-pro- 
jectors for discs are cheaper than those for films. 
This method has shown practical disadvantages 
in that one firm alone has complained that it was 
having to handle ten tons of discs a week ! 



A witty American producer was heard to remark 
once that the noisy studios used for silent pictures 
were being converted into silent studios for noisy 

The picture-goer, who sits mesmerized by the 
ghostly screen, little dreams what was going on 
just off the screen, when the picture he is watching 
was being shot. 

If he could be transported back to the studio 
while the picture was being made, he would not 
talk about the silent drama ; he would find himself 
in a bewildering maze of scaffolding, glaring lights 
and ceaseless hammering and shouting; while 
under the whirring cameras he would see the 
Director crouching, megaphone in hand, coaxing, 
explaining, or perhaps shouting, as the hero raises 
his loved one's lips to his own, under the merciless 
lights : "Love 'er, damn you ! Love 'er !" ; while an 
electric crane clanks overhead, dangling half a 
house from its jaws like some huge dog stealing off 
to bury a stolen bone. 

"Lights!" yells the Director, and a dozen 
electricians heave in their switches with a crash 



which nearly splits your ears. "Wind I" he yells 
again, while a huge wire cage is trundled up 
behind you and you are nearly blown off your 
feet as the scream of the wind-fans rises to an 
unearthly yell. 

A sort of devilish Genesis over again. 

All that had to stop when the Talkies came, 
machinery and buildings built after years of 
experience and at huge expense lay idle, filled only 
with the echoes of the past and the clamour of 
the concrete mixers of the builders, who were 
breaking record after record in the mad rush to 
make places where films might be made to speak. 

Huge notices in the modern studio ask for 
absolute silence, and stolid commissionaires stand 
on guard under the red lamps. No one moves, 
only the actors seem alive, their voices curiously 
remote and unreal. 

Everything had to go by the board — cameras, 
studios, laboratories, and lights. The new studios 
are shells within shells. Not even the lintels of 
the doors may connect the inner and outer walls 
of these sanctuaries. Their very foundations are in 
duplicate and rest on vast mats of sand to ensure 
that not the slightest earth-borne tremor from the 
outer world shall intrude upon the tranquillity of 
the "set." 



The Talkie producers learnt their lesson when 
they were desperately trying to adapt their existing 
studios for sound-work, and have even concluded 
arrangements with the aviation concerns to have 
a clear zone of "overhead" when the recording 
engineers hoist their red balloon, trailing its 
warning that the electric ear is awake in the 
shrouded buildings hundreds of feet below. 

It is no longer possible to construct a series of 

"sets" on the same "floor" while "shooting" is 

in progress ; the "set" builders and scenic artists 

have to do their work while the perspiring actors 

wipe their streaming faces and make furtive dives 

for the make-up box, while the camera-men 

and sound-engineers reload and adjust their 

apparatus, and the producer consults with his 


The carpenters can no longer nail up their long 

sheets of three-ply and beaverboard with impunity, 
for the very materials with which they work are 
under suspicion. 

The elegant draperies of the film drawing-room 
may be as deadly to the recording engineer as a 
faulty lens would be to his colleague, the camera- 
man. Every material reflects sound differently, and 
to different degrees ; and elaborate sound rehear- 
sals are being found necessary before the actual 


"shooting" begins, to ensure that the sound- 
camera is not going to be bemused by confusing 

The perfect sound "set" is the open air; once 
enclose that air with scenery and all the trappings 
of the world of make-believe and the space 
between them becomes an arena wherein, unless 
elaborate precautions are taken, every sound 
becomes an echoing mockery of itself, and reaches 
the microphone accompanied by a rabble of 
jostling sound-reflections and counter-reflections. 

"Location" work is not easy at the best of 
times, and it can be doubly difficult when Talkies 
are being made. An invention, however, known as 
the SchtirTtan process, has proved immensely use- 
ful in avoiding the necessity, either of building 
enormous "sets" with their attendant acoustic 
difficulties, or of having to seek "sets" suitable 
from the acoustic point of view. 

This process — a German one — has, however, 
definitely come to the rescue of Talkie engineers. 
It is a process of trick photography, which 
enables at least half of what would otherwise be a 
very large and expensive set to be built up as a 
miniature model which is merged into the re- 
maining full size scenery by means of a special 


^ 8 

5 8 




Part of this mirror is transparent, so that a 
camera looking at it sees firstly the reflection of 
the model down to the point where the mirror 
becomes transparent, and then through it, where 
the silver backing of the mirror has been rubbed 
or scraped away, at the full-sized scenery and 
actors. The full-sized scenery need only be built 
up to the point where the camera lens sees it 
meet the reflected model. By calculating the rela- 
tive distances of the model, the mirror, the 
camera and the set, the reflection of the model 
and the set can be brought into exact scale rela- 

The street scenery shown in the illustration 
opposite is only full size as far as is shown in the 
next illustration, the rest is the reflection of a small 
model. The next illustration shows the mirror 
being scraped away about half-way down the 
reflection of, in this case, not a model but a 
transparent photograph of a very large building. 

If there is a god of literal-mindedness the 
microphone is his high priest, so stupid is it that 
it is incapable of telling anything but the exact and 
literal truth. It is for this reason that such elabor- 
ate and expensive precautions have to be taken 
in the Talkie studios to prevent the microphone 
inquisitively listening to four or five sounds at 


once. It has to be spoonfed with only those which 
it is required to record; for it would never do 
for the melodious tones of an evening paper- 
seller to intrude in a scene depicting the Great 
White Silence, if the Talkie Directors are still able 
to include such a place in their celluloid world of 
unrealities, much of which, it is to be hoped, the 
coming of the Talkies will translate to a limbo 
even more remote, and no less inflammable. 

An excellent example of this inability to pick 
out sounds is furnished if a microphone is placed 
before a company of artists performing an oratorio 
or an artist singing with an orchestra. 

If a human being turns his back to the stage, 
he or she is usually able to hear and understand 
the solo artist with perfect distinctness, in spite 
of the fact that the orchestra or chorus, whichever 
the case may be, may, in terms of scientific 
measurement, be liberating more sound energy 
than the artist. A microphone placed in the same 
position would only hear those sounds which are 
actually loudest. 

It is not always easy to arrange, in the Talkies, 
for the microphone to be near the artist — it must 
not intrude in the picture. It was for this reason 
that the movements of the actors in the early 
Talkies were severely restricted, the usual proce- 


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dure being to hang the microphone overhead just 
out of the line of the camera. 

There was a tendency in those early years for 
the artists to speak or sing at the microphone 
and even look at it occasionally! However, the 
recording engineers became a good deal more 
crafty, and it was concealed in all sorts of things 
from table-lamps to Teddie Bears. 

The difficulty of allowing movement by the 
actors was being overcome by the provision of a 
number of microphones concealed about the 
"set" which were switched in and out as the 
actors moved about. As we have seen, however, 
the modern microphone enables a great deal of 
work to be handled by one only. 

Anything in the way of echoes or sound-reflec- 
tions have to be guarded against very carefully, as 
an abundance of them will only muddle the 
simple-minded electric ear; it is not at all easy 
to build "sets" which have correct acoustic 

In the first place the various speeds of vibration 
comprising the music or speech on the stage 
are not all affected to an equal degree by the 
same materials. It is unfortunate that, generally 
speaking, it is the lower speeds of vibration 
which are affected least, the high frequencies 


which make such an important contribution 
to distinctness and articulation again suffering 
loss due to increased absorption over the lower 

Even now there is a great deal of compromise 
going on, but an attempt is usually made to leave 
the "set" alone, as far as possible, once it has 
been adjusted for the average conditions under 
which it is to be used, making any further acoustic 
corrections by means of overhead sheets of 
sound-absorbent material. 

It is true that there are a number of special 
sound-absorbent materials available, but it is not 
possible to paint the majority of them without 
detracting from their acoustic value, a point which 
we shall raise again when we come to talk about 
the theatres in which Talkies, over which so much 
heart-burning takes place in the studios, have to 
be shown. 

A further difficulty is being experienced by the 
recording engineers, in that, while it is com- 
paratively easy to "correct" from a sound point of 
view a given room for a given set of conditions 
occurring, say, at one end of it, the play may 
demand that further action of a different char- 
acter may have to take place in a different part of 
the same "set," 


The "Mike" and the "Star." The Audience only sees 
what is Enclosed in the White Square. 

[Courtesy of the Western Electric Co. 

[To face page 72. 


It might be necessary, for instance, to film a 
wedding, some scenes being "shot" of the congre- 
gation singing with the organ, with a distant view 
of the fortunate couple, another being con- 
sidered necessary by the producer of a pair of 
io-foot lips murmuring "I will" on the altar 
steps, with the congregation in the distance this 

The acoustic conditions for the two such 
"shots" can be entirely different, and, although 
the scene may look the same, means have to be 
devised to make the necessary acoustic alterations 
in such a way that these will not be spotted by the 

There is actually an echo in every average living- 
room, which may be quite unnoticed by ears 
accustomed to the normal conditions of a dwell- 
ing-house ; if, however, a microphone is placed in 
such a room, any sounds heard through it will be 
accompanied by an astonishing amount of echo, 
which may be seriously disturbing to intelligibility 
and quality of reproduction. 

It is suggested that the reason why we are not 
normally conscious of this echo is due to the 
fact that we are using two ears. If a sharp rap is 
made in a room first with both ears free and then 
with one blocked, the presence of this echo is 


frequently quite noticeable together with a 
marked change of tone. 

Not only is the microphone stupid, but it is 
";%wzaural," so that any recording done on a 
microphone circuit is, therefore, not heard by 
the microphone as we hear it. 

Generally speaking it has been found desirable 
to allow as much natural reverberation as the 
microphone will permit, in order that the actors 
may be given conditions as nearly approaching 
the normal as possible. It is as difficult to 
make an impassioned oration with one's head 
under the blankets as it is glorious to sing in 
a bath. 

It seemed at one time that it would be desirable 
that the Talkie actor should retain the declamatory 
tones necessary on the legitimate stage, but again 
the modern microphone enables him to talk in a 
far more natural and restrained way without the 
necessity of the operators having to increase their 
valve magnification, introducing the "boomy," 
unnatural tones which such amplification has by 
experience been shown to produce. 

The sound-engineer has had to develop an 
ear for his work and has to shift and shuffle his 
draperies as the camera-man swings his banks of 
lights and peers through the various sights of his 


cameras; the sound-engineer has to consider, 
too, what the acoustic conditions of the theatres 
are likely to be in which his work is going to be 
projected, and he has to adjust the conditions of 
bis "set" to produce a record which, when repro- 
duced, will compensate for them. 

The passing of an actor from one room to 
another is not such a simple affair as the finished 
film would lead us to imagine; to begin with 
the filming of the room which is entered may 
take place many weeks after the scene where 
the actor is seen, perhaps, lighting a cigarette, 
opening the door, and passing through it. It is on 
occasions like this that the "Floor Secretary," 
that lynx-eyed and highly efficient functionary, has 
to keep his or her wits about them. 

It is not at all easy to remember exactly what 
you were wearing six weeks, or even days, pre- 
viously. When the time comes to film the other 
side of the door, it would never do for our hero 
to appear with a cigarette which has become 
miraculously reduced to a "tab end," and an 
entirely different collar and tie. The Floor Secre- 
tary may dash across to him when he appears 
from his dressing-room, and look him over from 
head to foot, notebook in hand. "Mr. Snooks, 
your hair is parted half an inch too far down, 


and you ought to have three pencils in your 
waistcoat pocket instead of a fountain pen," she 
will say. 

Even Floor Secretaries are not perfect. Not so 
very long ago a film was shown in London where 
the heroine was seen in a drenching rain-storm 
with an immaculate marcelle wave and bone-dry 
clothes after she had been severely handled in 
the previous scene only half a mile down the 

It is difficult to know where the Floor Secre- 
tary's job ends and where it begins. Not so long 
ago the Floor Secretary on a particular film which 
was being "shot" in the open air with a crowd 
of negro Extras, who had been collected out of the 
local docks, noticed that these coloured gentlemen 
were looking distinctly morose, when it was most 
important that they should display that light- 
hearted gaiety which the prospect of a succulent 
steak of stewed missionary would normally give 
them. Over went the Secretary to inquire the 
cause of such sullen glares and mutterings. Was 
it the pay that was worrying them? No? Was it 
that they were cold? No? Well, what was it? 
The spectators were calling them monkeys! 
Shame ! 

Off she went to the Director, who settled the 


trouble by taking the arms of two of the coloured 
men and making an impassioned speech to the 
crowd, which produced three cheers all round 
for everybody concerned. 

The Floor Secretaries now have their counter- 
part among the recording engineers, who must 
ensure that the acoustic conditions of "sets" 
which are used consecutively in the film have, as 
nearly as possible, the same sound characteristics ; 
it would not do for a character to stride from one 
room to another and speak with an entirely 
different voice ! On the other hand, such differences 
of acoustic condition can be made use of with 
considerable effect. 

The broadcasters were quick to see the pos- 
sibilities of manipulating echo, more accurately 
termed reverberation, handicapped as they were 
to show change of location. In life these subtle 
changes of sound are noticed only subconsciously, 
and rank but of secondary importance, aided as we 
are with our eyes. We do not notice consciously, 
for instance, that when we speak in a well- 
furnished room there is no noticeable echo, but 
that if we betake ourselves into the hall there is a 
considerably increased echo, while when we have 
emerged through the front door into the road 
there is practically no echo at all. 


While it is not so imperative in the Talkies to 
make the most of every sound-suggestion possible 
to assist the brain to construct missing optical 
impressions, which we have by the custom of life 
become accustomed to expect, a great deal of 
sub-conscious sound-suggestion work can be and 
is being applied to Talkie technique. 

Simple examples serve to show the value of 
noises which can greatly enrich the scene before 
our eyes ; the popping of a cork has, from time 
immemorial, suggested conviviality, and the 
relentlessness of time mocks us in the ticking of a 
clock. But it must not be the wrong kind of 
clock! Especially where sounds are concerned, 
it is better to leave things undone rather than 
introduce a jarring note, and subconscious appeal 
should, like good manners, only become obvious 
when it is not present. The fretful pathos of a 
millionaire sitting in his office waiting for the 
turn of the Stock Exchange to bring him news of 
fortune or failure should not be emphasized by the 
wooden voice of a kitchen timepiece ; the velvet 
tones of a Westminster Chime would, however, 
serve not only to mark the passing of the fatal 
minutes, but to introduce a telling hint of luxury 
withered by anxiety. 

In the majority of cases the most apt and 


spontaneous sounds introduced into pictures are 
the result of a great deal of anything but spontane- 
ous experiment. Separate microphones are fre- 
quently used, and the fateful ticking which marks 
the agony of a riven soul may, as likely as not, 
proceed, not from the clock which is so faithfully 
featured in the scene, but from another held up to 
a microphone slung up in some convenient corner 
of the studio by a perspiring electrician, and 
"mixed" into the sound-record by the monitoring 
engineers at exactly the moment when the pro- 
ducer thinks that it will be heard with most 

The noise of "smashes" of any kind are most 
complicated sound structures, and a far wider 
range of vibration speed response is needed to 
record the impact of a railway collision than the 
whole musical range of a church organ. Sudden 
sounds, such as the report of a pistol, have long 
been a problem to recording engineers, because 
such sudden surges of energy may build up and die 
away so quickly that the electrical components of 
the recording gear may, as it were, become 
momentarily puzzled, and fail to respond in a 
normal fashion. In the case of sounds which have 
to be reproduced artificially because of studio 
limitations, noises have to be devised which, 


when they have been distorted by the recording 
gear, will resemble the sound that it is required to 
convey. The rapping of a cane will often give a 
representation of rifle-fire, while an actual shot 
would only reach the ears of the audience as a 
dull thud. 

Sea waves can be simulated almost exactly by 
the gentle rolling of small shot over the surface of 
a drum, but actual waves are heard only as a 
mixture of rustling and sizzling, entirely uncon- 
vincing as compared to the artificial product. It is 
quite impossible to reproduce effectually all the 
noises of a busy street, because of the indis- 
criminating nature of the microphone; and the 
sound-effect expert will not, if he is wise, attempt 
to do so, for the ear tends to pick out only 
those component sounds to which it is par- 
ticularly sensitive, either by reason of mood or 

The best that can be done is to study the 
psychology of the position carefully, and select 
one or two simple sounds which are highly 
characteristic of the situation, inserting these to 
the best effect. A microphone hung in a street 
would render only a confused babble of noises, 
which would by themselves be far less effective 
than if such characteristic sounds as the "ting" of 


a bus bell, or the voice of a boy calling papers, 
were inserted into the babble to rouse the re- 
quired associations in the spectators' mind. 

Sounds that are characteristic of a situation 
must be carefully chosen, and they must be those 
that could not mean anything but one thing and 
one thing only ; an excellent example of which is 
that of a railway engine running "light," whose 
peculiar care-free "clank" rouses a world of 
associations in the mind. On the other hand, 
the starting of a train has to be carefully analysed 
into its component noises, and they have to be 
produced individually and combined correctly. 
The hiss of the safety valve, the thud of the pistons, 
the swish of each puff of steam, and the groan of 
the train have to be made separately and per- 
formed together. The bursting of a shell has to be 
produced with at least five different noises made 
on five different devices. 

There is no need to enumerate any more 
examples except perhaps one. The curious "pick- 
ling" noise caused by the gentle lapping of water 
against the side of a small boat, and highly sug- 
gestive of drowsy river evenings, can be repro- 
duced through a microphone with an exactness 
that is uncanny, by rattling a few matches in 
their box between the forefinger and thumb. 


The sizzling arc-lamps of the pre-Talkie days 
had at first to be remorselessly scrapped as being 
far too noisy with their ceaseless clatter and 
hissing; they were replaced by enormous incan- 
descent globes, some of which consume as much 
as six horse-power of electricity each, while 
frames of smaller lamps containing as many as 
seventy bulbs at a time are being made and 

Some idea of the size of these great lamps may 
be gauged by the fact that the stands on which 
they are mounted are being fitted with com- 
pressed air brakes to enable them to be moved 
quickly and easily without damaging their fila- 
ments, which are nearly as thick as a pencil lead, 
and reach a terrific temperature many times that 
required to melt a bar of steel ! The glass bulbs 
are as much as twelve inches in diameter, and 
woe betide any absent-minded person who 
stands too close to these miniature suns for too 
long, for he will soon wonder where the smell 
of burning is coming from, until he puts his 
hand up the back of his head and finds that it is 
his own hair that is being singed. 

When the arrival of the Talkies demanded the 
development of larger and larger lamps, or 
"Inkies," as they are called in the picturesque 


A io,ooo-Watt "Inky." 

[Courtesy of the General Electric Co., Ltd., London. 
[To face page 82. 


slang of the studios ; the lamp manufacturers very- 
soon found that they were limited in the size of 
the lamps that they could make, because of the 
trouble they experienced over the bulbs becoming 
blackened in much the same way that the early 
household-lamps used to deteriorate. 

The problem of overcoming this difficulty with 
such enormous lamps was not an easy one, and a 
whole series of experiments were started again, 
this time by the electrical engineers, to see why 
this bogey, which they thought had been cured 
years ago in the smaller lamps, had reared up its 
head again. 

The Americans tackled the idea with charac- 
teristic promptness in a most ingenious way ; they 
arranged that a small amount of abrasive powder 
should be left inside the globe, so that when the 
inside of the bulb began to show signs of blacken- 
ing, all that was necessary was to spin the bulb 
round, thereby whirling the powder round the 
inside of the glass, so scraping away the dark 
material, which then fell into the bottom of the 
globe out of harm's way. 

The English engineers, however, went one 
better, and have actually succeeded in making a 
bulb which will not blacken at all, working on 
the lines that prevention is better than cure. The 


General Electric Company of England is rapidly 
attaining a world-wide reputation for their 
"Inkies," and their installations are being sent 
to all parts of the globe. 

American engineers are frequent visitors to 
these shores to study our methods of sound- 
studio lighting. The General Electric Company's 
laboratory experts made the highly important 
discovery that the filament was not alone respon- 
sible for the trouble. 

Tungsten is used for the filaments of these 
lamps because it can be raised to a very high 
temperature before it starts to evaporate, but the 
fact that the metal which was used in the manu- 
facture of the small wire supports which are to 
be seen in any electric lamp, and are there to pre- 
vent the filament from sagging, would start to 
evaporate at a very much lower temperature, had 
not previously had a sufficiently serious effect in 
the smaller lamps to warrant further research. 
The enormous heat of these new monsters which 
the Talkie camera-men demanded very soon 
showed that the whole question of high-power 
lamp design had to be gone into far more 
deeply than previous commercial conditions had 
demanded. The material of which the filament 
supports used to be made has been modified, 


3,ooo-\\"att Ixcaxdescext Studio Lamp. 

[Courtesy of the General Electric Co., London. 
[To face page 84. 


A Bank of "Inkies." 

[Courtesy of the General Electric Co., London. 

[To face page 85 


with the result that British "Inkies" are in 
universal demand. 

This state of affairs is as gratifying as it is 
curious, because in the past, when the film 
business offered enormous markets for arc-lamp 
equipment, the British electrical firms allowed 
them to slip out of their hands, and the American 
and German equipment became standardized to 
such an extent that practically no trade was done 
by British Electrical firms with film producers 
abroad. The German lamps were especially 
famous, and it is difficult to explain why they 
have allowed themselves to drop behind in this 
new development. 

The Germans are indeed only just beginning 
to get going with Talkies, and were until re- 
cently using arc-lamps, housed, as the early 
American Talkie people enclosed their arcs before 
they could get large enough "Inkies," in "glori- 
fied greenhouses," to shut out the sound of the 
spluttering carbons. 

The illustration of one of these huge lamps 
gives an idea of their size, and some of them use 
enough current to run a fair-sized broadcasting 
station. The current they require is so enormous 
that any attempt to switch on a lamp of the kind 
that we have been describing, as one should 


switch on a household bulb, would result in an 
explosion which would blow the bulb into 
"smithereens" and plunge the studio into dark- 
ness. The current must be fed to the lamps slowly 
and gradually, and a complicated starting mechan- 
ism has to accompany each lamp. The largest 
lamps actually have their own ventilating appa- 
ratus, which has to be at work continuously 
drawing the heat away, lest they should melt 
with their own heat. The cooling fans are elec- 
trically driven, and the lighting engineers have 
another problem in designing a cooling-fan 
motor which will not cause interference with the 
sound-recording apparatus when the lamps are 
used for close-ups, and the microphones are cheek 
by jowl with them — and so it goes on ! 

Many of these lamps are nearly a thousand 
times more powerful than any bulb that the 
reader is likely to have in his house, and he can 
readily realize what a terrific job the film electri- 
cians have nowadays. Imagine one bulb requires 
nearly 1 5 horse-power of electricity to light it ! 

A load of 22,000 amperes at 115 volts and 
nearly 4,000 of these great lamps were used for 
one scene only, when "Broadway" was being 
filmed — enough electricity to drive four express 
trains at full speed used in lights alone. 


Readers who have valve radio sets may have 
noticed how the turning on of a light switch or 
the ringing of a sometimes quite distant front 
door bell will cause a rattle in their ear-phones or 
loudspeaker. As soon as the film people started to 
put their microphones in the studios, they very 
soon found out that the electric wiring and switch- 
boards which had served them so well in the past 
were a constant source of nuisance. Every nut 
and bolt had to be overhauled and miles of wire 
had to be ripped up and replaced with new 
material to prevent the possibility of an exasperat- 
ing hunt round the studios to find the cause of 
some hiss or crackle picked up by the microphone 
circuits, and recorded on to the film sound-record 
as an unwanted accompaniment to the words or 

It is interesting to remember that, to whatever 
pitch of perfection these huge incandescent lamps, 
60 per cent, of whose light is red, had been 
developed, they would have been practically 
useless had there not been in existence Panchro- 
matic film, which gives such superior photo- 
graphic values, due to its increased sensitivity to 
the red component rays of light, making it once 
again possible to make normal exposures. Or- 
dinary film reproduces red as black, no matter 


what shade of red it is ; panchromatic, however, 
registers these differences correctly. 

Panchromatic (all colour) plates were only just 
beginning to be used when the war broke out, 
and their red sensitive properties were found 
extremely useful when making photos of the 
ground from aircraft in misty or foggy weather. 
The fog-penetrating properties of the yellow and 
red rays are well known to motorists, and the use 
of panchromatic plates, which could make use of 
these components of light, enabled our aerial 
observers to get clear photographs of the ground 
when it was, as far as the eye was concerned, 
veiled by mist. 

The Inkies have not entered the motion-picture 
field without some outcry, and in Austria the 
Sasha Film Producing Company are using a 
combination of arcs and inkies in their sound- 
studios, which are the largest in Europe. 

Progress is being rapidly made in readapting 
the arc-lamp to the new conditions of the sound- 
studio. A lamp has recently been produced by a 
British firm which it is claimed is absolutely silent, 
while in America the problem has been attacked 
with an electrical smoothing device christened by 
the American film engineers with that genius 
for picturesque slang — a "Whistle-box," Inkies 




are by no means universally liked by the camera- 
men, who have always to remember that the pro- 
jectors in the small country theatres are apt to 
be of the "weird and wonderful" variety, and 
they have to adjust their ideas of what the lighting 
of their "shots" shall be with this in mind. Some 
are, for this reason, reluctant to pledge their faith 
in incandescent lighting, because they maintain 
that the Inkies do not give sufficiently sharp 
detail on dark subjects to withstand the motley 
array of more or less inefficient projectors in the 
smaller cinemas. 

When the first Talkies were being made, one 
of the first things that bothered producers was 
the noise of the cameras, especially where more 
than one camera was being used at once. Studio 
cameras were often a good deal noisier than a 
sewing machine, and it is indeed a very difficult 
matter to make a machine running at such a high 
speed in any way sufficiently silent for Talkie 
work. Everything had been sacrificed to smooth 
and rapid action, and silence was the last thing 
that the manufacturers had bothered about. 

The obvious course was adopted when the 
early Talkies were being made, and the cameras 
and their operators were enclosed in sound- 
proof boxes or booths, much to the camera- 


men's disgust. These booths cramped their range 
of action badly, and prevented the swing and 
"Pan" (panorama) "shots" beloved of that 
fraternity. The camera was pointed through a 
special window made of very thick optically- 
worked glass. The dimensions of these windows 
have had to be very carefully worked out, and 
their width and thickness have had to be the 
subject of very careful experiment, otherwise 
they started to vibrate on certain sounds and 
produced a buzz which, while frequently quite 
inaudible to the ear, was recorded faithfully by 
the sound-camera. A good many feet of film and 
hours of expensive time were wasted before the 
source of these mysterious sounds was traced. 
These windows had to be at least a quarter 
of an inch thick, and, stuffy as the draped and 
curtained studios were, they were cool com- 
pared with the sweltering heat of the camera 

Although the most elaborate booths were built, 
some of them holding a crew of as many as ten 
men, and mounted on power-driven trollies, they 
were clearly not the real solution to the problem, 
and were at the best a makeshift, until camera 
manufacturers had succeeded in rushing through 
a type of camera which was silent enough in 




action to do away with the necessity of such 
cumbersome and cramping devices. 

Camera-men, like other men, have their feel- 
ings; no one who has heard it can forget the 
immortal story of the camera-man who, while 
perched on a roof to film the funeral of the late 
King Edward, was detected spasmodically turning 
his camera in time to the Dead March with tears 
pouring down his face! His film was not a 
success ! 

The latest device for silencing cameras has 
been dubbed the "Blimp," and is in effect a 
sound-proof camera-case completely enclosing 
the camera but allowing access to the controls. 
The two illustrations show a "Debrie" camera 
"Blimp" both open and closed. 

The work of the camera manufacturers was 
further complicated by the fact that for sound- 
work it was found to be necessary to work at a 
speed of twenty-four pictures to the second 
instead of sixteen, which had been usual for 
silent picture work; two reasons, among 
others, for this was that the sound-track 
requires a greater length of film per second 
for satisfactory recording, and secondly, should 
it be necessary to mend a broken film, the fact 
that the sound-track is more spread out 


renders the omission of a small section less 

A series of experiments was at once started 
to trace every possible cause of noise, and some 
very unexpected sources were found. It was, for 
instance, ascertained after a series of laborious 
tests that a peculiar drumming or booming 
sound was caused by the vibration of the metal 
film-magazines. This trouble was stopped by the 
provision of a spongy rubber cover and by 
fitting baffle-plates, very similar to those in the 
silencers of motor-cars, which were in turn 
covered with sound-absorbing material, and 
drilled with a series of spiral holes. Ball bearings 
were, until recently, extensively used for cameras, 
but they were found to be a very troublesome 
source of noise, and had, when necessary, to be 
ruthlessly scrapped and replaced with plain 
bearings, the proper lubrication of which neces- 
sitated a further series of experiments, because it is 
of the utmost importance that while they should 
be adequately lubricated, no oil should be allowed 
to get on to the film, for it should be remembered 
that a coloured stain, while appearing quite 
transparent to the eye, may seriously offend the 
dilettante photo-cell. 

A good deal of trouble was found to lie in the 


use of metal cog-wheels, and these have been now 
replaced with gear-wheels ingeniously moulded at 
high pressure out of non-metallic substances, such 
as paper and the black and brown material familiar 
to most of us made up into knobs for tuning radio 

For various reasons, which we need not go into 
now, spring belts have in the past been used to 
connect the rotating film-magazines to the shutter 
mechanism. These were found to be a fruitful 
source of noise, and have been replaced, in the 
newly designed Talkie cameras, with belts of linen 
and other materials held at the right tension by an 
ingenious arrangement of spring pulleys, so that 
they are allowed enough stretch to take up any 
fluctuations in the tension of the film as it passes 
from one magazine to the other over the toothed 
rollers or sprockets which feed it past the shutters 
and lenses. 

These sprockets gave trouble in rather an 
unexpected way ; it was found that a considerable 
amount of noise was caused by the teeth on 
them as they engaged with the perforations cut in 
the film ; this trouble was, of course, aggravated 
by the fact that the cameras were being run 
faster than the speed that they were designed for. 
By dint of reducing the speed and range of move- 



ment of every possible moving part, a further 
improvement was effected. 

In some cases even the shutters themselves 
have been covered with a layer of sound-reducing 

The modern Talkie camera is a marvel of high 
speed, research and ingenuity, and can be used, it 
is claimed, within ten feet of a microphone, 
which would not have tolerated what was an 
up-to-date camera, only a few months ago, 
ioo feet away. 

When the first silent cameras were rushed 
through the works, it had not been possible to 
make one which could be reversed, enabling the 
exposed film to be wound back on to the upper 
magazine again and re-exposed, so that the fade- 
in and mixing shots, where one scene fades into 
the other, could be made ; but even that has been 
achieved now, and the camera-men are happy 

Talking of non-reversible cameras in the early 
days of Talkies is reminiscent of an amusing story 
told by Roy Pomeroy, the brilliant English Pro- 
ducer and Film Technician, who produced the 
first All-Talking Film Interferefice. One of his 
studio cameras was driven by an electric motor. 
During a critical moment of the work, the motor 


decided to change its mind, and started to revolve 
the other way round. 

As Mr. Pomeroy said: "The camera was not 
designed to reverse, and what was left of the 
internal mechanism when the motor had finished 
with it was not much further use for motion- 
picture work !" An up-to-date Talkie camera can 
cost anything up to £2,000. 

Readers who are interested in photography 
will realize that the introduction of the photo- 
graphic sound-track on to the same film as the 
picture has meant the development of an entirely 
new dark-room technique, the whole process of 
film printing and development being further 
complicated by the fact that experience tends to 
show that the contrast unit or "Gamma" of the 
sound-track should be considerably lower than 
that which is considered desirable for the picture 
portion of the film. In other words the sound- 
track, especially when it is of the variable density 
type (such as the De Forest system used by 
British Talking Pictures and the American Movie- 
tone), should be softer in tone gradation than 
the contrasting black and white of the picture 

In the old days the exposed negative film was 
wound on wooden racks, very much like the 


frames of a clothes-horse, these racks being then 
immersed in large upright tanks of developer. 
They were periodically raised, so that the man 
who was responsible for their treatment could 
see how they were getting on ; when he considered 
them finished, they were rinsed and put in the 
fixing tank. This process naturally demanded a 
very high degree of skill, and the "developer," 
as he was called, held a very important position. 
On his shoulders rested the responsibility of the 
whole of the production costs, for should any- 
thing go amiss with his end of the production, 
parts anyhow of the film would have to be re-shot 
on the studio floor, or on location, as the case 
might be, with consequent additional delay and 

With the advent of the sound-picture this rack 
and tank method had to be dropped; highly 
skilled though the "developer" may be, he is yet 
human and cannot attain the machine-like preci- 
sion which the proper treatment of sound-tracks 

Machines for the automatic treatment of positive 
films, originally evolved in England, have been in 
use for some years ; and machines for the treatment 
of negative films have recently been devised which 
will do the work of the "Developer," whose 


responsibility is still as great as before, but the 
risk of trouble has been reduced to a minimum. 

The importance of this will be obvious when it 
is realized that, whereas it is a comparatively- 
easy matter to run off a fresh print from the 
negative, any accident which befalls the negative 
itself means a re-shoot of the portion of the 
production affected. 

British inventors not only produced the first 
film moving pictures, Will Barker and Mr. 
Hepworth, whose original automatic film develop- 
ing plant was in regular use in 191 6, were in the 
field in Britain with this invention three or four 
years before cinema-men anywhere else. 

Hepworth' s machine automatically conveyed 
the positive film, on to which the picture had 
been printed from the camera negative, through 
the processes of developing, fixing, washing, and 
drying. A number of these machines gave good 
service in his Walton laboratories for years. 

Like others, these inventors had to face a good 
deal of ignorant prejudice from the old-time 
"Developers" with their secret formulas and 
private systems. They were reluctant to surrender 
their craft to what they feared would be an 
inflexible and unimaginative automaton. They 
have, however, learnt better now, and to-day 


over 80,000,000 feet of film, or roughly 16,000 
miles, are "processed" yearly in the London area 

The Developers and laboratory Managers need 
not have worried ; their responsibility is as great as 
ever it was; there is still the same need for the 
special treatment of various scenes, and the old 
hands have had the scope of their experience 
greatly extended by the methodical progress of 
the film as it advances picture by picture from one 
electrically driven roller to another, untouched by 
hand and under automatically controlled atmo- 
spheric conditions. 

The Vinton plant is representative of one of the 
earliest automatics and is widely used to-day. 
There are more Vinton machines in use in this 
country than any other make. 

The fact that Talkie sound-track negative is 
actually being satisfactorily treated on one of 
these machines, which were originally designed 
for positives, at the present time, is a tribute to 
their designer. 

The film is fed over the first toothed roller 
or "sprocket" down into the first tank of 
developer, where the loop of film is held down 
in the developer by a flanged roller weight. It is 
passed through the developer several times, the 

















amount of development being controlled by the 
speed at which the sprockets are allowed to 
revolve. From the developer the film travels, by 
means of further sprockets, into rinsing tanks 
containing water to remove any traces of developer 
from it before it is passed into the tanks con- 
taining the fixing solutions. After being fixed, the 
film is washed again and passed into the drying- 
room, where the air is maintained at a suitable 
temperature and humidity by automatic controls. 

Mr. Vinton does not believe in drying-cup- 
boards or enclosing the film in enclosed spaces ; 
he attacks the problem from the other end, and 
provides special apparatus which ensures that the 
film encounters nothing but clean air. 

Another British plant, the Lawley, differs from 
other automatic plants, inasmuch as it employs a 
series of long ebonite tubes, instead of tanks or 
vats, as containers for the various solutions. These 
tubes, some twenty feet deep, are arranged in a 
row with a sprocket over each tube. These 
sprockets are all mounted on the same shaft, but 
each sprocket is fitted with an extremely ingenious 
little adjustable clutch by means of which the 
speed of each may be separately adjusted. 

The method of controlling the amount of 
development that any particular strip of film 


requires is particularly neat. After the film has 
emerged from the first tube, the operator is able, 
by inspecting the first traces of image that has 
appeared on the negative, to decide how much 
further development is required ; this he adjusts, 
by arranging that the loop of film in the subse- 
quent tubes shall be of a certain length; if a 
greater amount of development is called for, the 
loop is allowed to extend right down the tube, if 
less development, the loop is shortened, so that 
the film spends less time in each tube. 

Not only is the developer weakened by the 
chemical process of developing the film, but 
the film itself, being dry when it enters the 
tubes, soaks up a large quantity of developer, 
much after the manner of a sponge : this has to 
be made up in each tube by supplies of fresh 
developer, which are squirted in continuously 
under pressure through a series of tiny holes 
extending down each tube. 

The 1,000-foot roll of film passes in and out of 
each tube in turn; the first three tubes being 
usually developer, the fourth water for rinsing, 
the fifth and sixth hypo, followed by several tubes 
for the final washing. After the developed and 
fixed film emerges from the last washing tube, it 
passes through an extremely ingenious suction 


< — 


device, which removes all superfluous moisture, 
and prevents any water being taken into the 
drying tubes. Here it is dried at a constant tempera- 
ture and is passed out to be wound on spools ready 
for use. Further tubes are provided with various 
colouring solutions, if it is required to tint the 

The film does not need the usual polishing to 
remove any streaks of dried solution from the 
celluloid side, because the suction device has 
already removed the superfluous moisture, and 
the film emerges from the final drying tube 

Debrie, the famous French firm of photo- 
graphic apparatus manufacturers, whose camera 
"Blimp" I have already mentioned, have evolved 
a machine which is extraordinarily compact. One 
unit, capable of handling well over three thousand 
feet of film per hour, occupies a space only 
twenty feet long by two feet wide. 

In the Debrie machine, the speed of the film is 
kept constant, but provision is made for variable 
development by altering the depth to which the 
film is allowed to enter the tanks. 

Superfluous moisture is, in this case, blown 
away by compressed air. 

Most of the developing plants in America 


follow fairly closely the idea of the Vinton 
machine, but they differ in one important point ; 
the film is never allowed out of the solutions. All 
shafts and sprockets revolve actually in the liquids. 
It is a moot point whether taking the film out of a 
bath into the open air and then into another bath 
again has any harmful effect upon development ; 
but a certain school of laboratory experts maintain 
that it has. 

The reason why, in the Vinton system, the 
film is allowed out of the bath, is so that absolute 
control may be in the hands of the operator, 
inasmuch as he can see a double length of film 
over each sprocket, and can watch the whole 
length of film as it passes. 

Since, in the American systems, the film cannot 
be seen in the baths, arrangements are made 
whereby about a foot of film is allowed to 
emerge at a time, and is passed over a small 
piece of glass about six inches long, under which 
is placed a special optical lamp, suitable for the 
type of film which is being treated. The film then 
re-enters the tanks and is not seen again until it 
emerges fixed and washed. 

We have seen that the machine method of 
developing films offers tremendous advantages 
over the old-time hand- worked methods, because, 


in addition to the more regular development it 
gives, it is possible to treat such huge lengths of 
film at such an enormous speed. 

The coming of the sound-track, however, made 
it absolutely essential that machines should be 
used for various reasons. 

Absolute regularity of development is highly 
important for the sound-track, and the old 
methods were not by any means blameless in this 
respect. One of the troubles of developing sound- 
track by the rack and tank methods was that, 
unless the developer was kept in perfectly 
regular motion, the solution tended to become 
weakened by the denser streaks on the track, 
which took more out of the solution, and this 
weakened developer consequently under-devel- 
oped the adjacent more lightly exposed portions 
of the emulsion. This gave rise to incorrect 
contrasts in the track. 

The great enemy of sound-track is the danger 
of stains on the film. Stains, which may not be 
visible to the eye at all, may have the effect of 
almost entirely cutting off the useful rays of light 
from the sensitive photo-cell, which is particularly 
fussy about the colour of the light that falls upon 
it. Stains, however faint, especially of yellow, are 
sufficient to render the cell inoperative or cause a 


background of noise on the film. It is for this 
reason that the American method of never letting 
the film emerge into the air until it is ready to be 
dried is finding increasing popularity, because 
there was undoubtedly a risk of the developer 
on the film being affected by the air as the film 
passed from one tank or tube to the other. These 
very faint stains did not matter with the silent 
picture, but are, as we have seen, very dangerous 
to the successful treatment of sound-track. 

The latest processing machines have horizontal 
tanks in a further endeavour to facilitate the 
passage of the film from one solution to another. 

Special precautions are being taken to see that 
the developer which is losing its strength is 
replaced in as gradual and regular manner as 
possible. This is, of course, arranged for in the 
Lawley machine. The old method of draining off 
the old solutions and pouring in fresh would be 
fatal to the sound-film; very strong solutions of 
developer are being used, and an elaborate system 
of circulating pipes has been devised to see that 
the strength is maintained without any sudden 

Automatic electrical arrangements keep the 
solutions at exactly the correct temperatures. 

A rather unexpected source of trouble was 


found when the first sound-tracks were run 
through ordinary processing machines ; this took 
the form of distinct hum in the loudspeaker. 
A series of experiments showed this to be due 
again to the ever-present enemy, stain. 

The trouble was traced to the fact that a certain 
amount of developer was caught up in the per- 
forations at the side of the film, and when the 
film was lifted out of the developer, this emerged 
from the perforations and drained on to the 
sound-track, causing stains due to the slight 
extra development which it effected wherever it 
fell. This has now been overcome by plunging 
the film straight into a bath of a special chemical 
which destroys the power of any developer which 
may be left on the film and prevents it doing any 
damage if it does emerge after the film has left 
the tank or tube, as the case may be. 

Particular care has had to be taken to see that the 
water in these processes does not contain any 
small particles which, by being deposited on the 
film, may cause background noise. 

The difficulty of the different degrees of con- 
trast demanded by the sound-track and the picture 
is greatly simplified, from the developer's point of 
view, if separate films are used, because it is then 
possible to develop the two films to their indi- 


vidual contrast requirements and arrange to print 
them separately on to the final positive film. 

A further advantage of the machine over the 
old-fashioned methods is that there is no risk of 
what were known as rack marks; these were 
particularly dangerous to the sound-track because 
they occurred across the film, that is to say, in 
a line with the sound-track streak. 

The engineers engaged in recording sound on 
film have, like the manufacturers of gramophone 
records, discovered that the light-sensitive emul- 
sions with which they work must, like the 
"wax" of the record manufacturers, be of ex- 
ceedingly fine texture, for at least two reasons; 
one being the fact that, if the very fine light 
streaks representing the higher notes — some of 
them over 400 lines on less than an inch of film — 
are to be accurately photographed, absolute 
smoothness of texture is essential ; the other being 
our old friend "scratch," or, in the parlance of the 
sound-film engineers, "background noise." 

The Eastman Kodak Laboratories at Rochester 
have been investigating this problem of "back- 
ground noise," which covers any noise introduced 
by or through the actual dark-room processes 
through which the virgin film passes on its way 
to the theatre projectors. 


Some of the earlier workers were inclined to 
believe that the noise was due to optical irre- 
gularities in the actual celluloid film "base" before 
any light-sensitive emulsion was put on. A series 
of experiments was carried out on several kinds 
of film base besides that normally used for cine 

One of these experiments was to run various 
samples of film "base" through a sound projector 
in the usual manner. The results obtained by 
various observers showed that the earlier theories 
were not correct, and that the trouble was not in 
the material of the base. 

It was found, however, that a considerable 
amount of noise was introduced if finished film 
was run through the projector a few times, and 
that it was rendered more noisy still by being 
handled with bare fingers. 

The next step was to determine how much, if 
any, "background noise" was increased by the 
several steps involved in manufacturing the film, 
and in the ultimate processes of developing, 
fixing, washing, and drying. The method in this 
experiment was to run a sample of film through a 
standard sound-projector and measure electrically 
the power output of the film. 

If the film is optically true, the power output 


from the loudspeaker amplifier will be either zero 
or some constant value. If, however, the film is 
irregular, the output from the amplifier will vary 
and will provide a means of measuring the actual 
amount of any noise present. 

These experiments showed that no dirt or other 
cause of noise is introduced in the first process 
of coating the "base" with the material by which 
the eventual sensitive emulsion is secured to it, 
known as "substrating." When, however, the 
film was emulsion coated, and put through the 
regular processes of fixing and washing or 
developing, the noise was found to have increased. 

Steps were then taken to find out whether the 
increase of noise was due to the presence of the 
emulsion or to the processing. Two pieces of 
film were developed and fixed; one was then 
wiped by machinery, and the other carefully 
wiped by hand. 

The results showed curiously enough that the 
sample of film which had been wiped by 
machinery was more than twice as noisy as that 
which had been wiped by hand. 

In order to find out whether a further cause of 
noise lay in the stages of manufacture, a piece of 
film, which had been "substrated," but not coated 
with sensitive emulsion, was subjected to all the 


stages of development and fixation; the noise 
produced by this film was found to be consider- 
ably greater than a similar piece of film which had 
not been developed and fixed. Furthermore, the 
noise produced by it was comparable with that 
produced by a sample which had been emulsion- 
coated and "processed" in the ordinary way. 

It was clear, therefore, that the trouble lay, not 
in the stages of manufacture, but in the labora- 
tories of the studios. 

Further experiments showed that a film which 
has been fixed without having been developed is 
noisier than one which has. It has been suggested 
that the small amount of fog present in any unex- 
posed but developed film probably tends to mask 
the noise due to the presence of dirt which has 
already been introduced, and which causes a 
larger variation of light falling on the photo- 
electric cell through clear film than film which has 
been covered with a uniform layer of silver 

This point of view is rather borne out by 
further experiments, which were undertaken to 
find out the amount of noise caused by repeated 
use in theatre projectors. 

It was found that, while the amount of back- 
ground noise increases in more or less direct 


ratio with the number of times the film is run 
through and rewound, the increase of noise is 
more rapid with films of lesser density. 

Most of us are familiar with the printing 
frames used for printing snapshots, and many- 
will anyhow have tried their hand at making 
prints by artificial light on paper which requires 
developing in much the same way as a plate or 
film. It will be readily realized that the printing of 
a strip of twenty or thirty thousand pictures cannot 
be achieved in an ordinary frame. Special printing 
machines have long been in existence for this 
task, but they, like all the rest of the apparatus 
connected with the film industry, have had to be 
re-designed for Talkie work. 

The principle on which most machines work is 
very much the same, and they are divided into two 
types. The "step by step" printer and the "con- 
tinuous" printer. 

In both types the developed negative is con- 
tained on a spool on one side of the machine 
above which is the spool containing the raw 
positive film, which has to be brought into close 
contact with the negative before a light, so that 
the image on the negative can be printed on to 
the positive. The two films are led by toothed 
sprockets over a curved "gate" under which the 


light is situated, and are then separated again, the 
exposed positive film being then sent to the 
laboratory for development and the negative 
being rewound and transferred to the other side 
again, ready to make another print. 

As we have seen, it is usual to record the sound- 
track on separate machines and then to print the 
track beside the picture after the picture has been 
printed, because the sound-track requires very 
exact uniform exposure conditions as opposed to 
the picture portion, which has to be developed 
and printed to all sorts of degrees of contrast, 
which vary with each particular scene. The old- 
time printers were not arranged for any other 
process than the simple printing of the picture 
over the whole surface of the film. 

Step by step printers expose the film picture 
by picture in jerks, differing from the continuous 
type in that they operate in a vertical direction, 
the spools being mounted above and below each 
other, the feed spools being above the "gate"; 
the light being obscured from the films as they 
are moving from one picture to another by a 
revolving shutter, much the same way as in the 

The continuous printer runs the two films 
smoothly and continuously through past the light. 


This latter machine is clearly the only type that 
can be used for sound-track, but considerable 
alterations have had to be made before it could be 
used for the double operation of printing first the 
picture, and then the corresponding sound-track. 
The illustration shows the latest type of con- 
tinuous printer for sound-work. On the left are 
seen the two spools carrying the rolls of developed 
negative and raw positive film, the negative 
occupying the bottom spool, while on the right 
are seen the spools which collect the exposed 
positive and the negative respectively. 

This printer is so arranged that it will perform 
three operations at will — print the picture with 
the sound-track in the same operation, print the 
picture without the sound-track, automatically 
masking the space to be occupied by the sound- 
track, or print the sound-track on to an already 
printed picture. 

A number of points have had to be watched, 
and various hitherto unimportant refinements 
made. In order to ensure that the very fine 
variations of the sound-track could be accurately 
printed, the slot through which the light shines 
on to the film as it passes through the light-gate 
has had to be made very much narrower, and any 
backlash or unsteadiness has had to be gone into 








with the same care that the camera manufacturers 
had to bestow on their silent machines for Talkie 
work; fly-wheels, too, are being fitted to help 
maintain as constant a speed as possible. Particular 
care has to be taken to ensure that while the 
picture is being printed no light can possibly get 
out sideways through the film on to the portion 
which is masked off to receive the impression of 
the sound-track. 

This sort of trouble is apt to occur if the 
sprocket holes are not adequately masked. 

The Lawley printer has a particularly clever 
way of dealing with the different exposures which 
the various scenes demand. 

Tests are made of cuttings from the various 
scenes to ascertain the best printing exposure for 
them, and when these have been determined each 
portion of the negative which requires a different 
exposure has clipped on to it a tiny metal key; 
as this key passes past the light-gate it makes an 
electrical contact, releasing an automatic switch 
which effects the required change in the strength 
of light until the next key enters the gate and 
changes the value of the light to that required for 
the portion of film for which it is responsible. 

With the coming of the Talkies, the whole 
business of inspecting the finished prints has had 


to be altered, and a great deal of additional gear 
added, for the examiner now has to listen to the 
film as well as look at it ! It is important that the 
first print off the machine should be heard under 
theatre conditions, and the inspectors have had 
to develop an ear as well as an eye ! 

The joining of films has had to receive attention. 
It is no longer possible to make the usual quick 
splice which was perfectly satisfactory for silent 
pictures, because it emerges from the loud- 
speakers as a loud "plonk," which is very discon- 
certing. This trouble has been overcome to a 
certain extent by two methods of splicing — one 
avoids the necessity of lapping the two broken 
portions of the film over each other by bringing 
the two ends together just as they have broken, 
and securing them with a strip of clear celluloid 
stuck underneath them, and the other device 
arranges for a triangular dab of either black or 
red paint to be placed over the point where the 
sound-track is joined, so that it momentarily 
reduces the light to the cell until all danger of a 
"plonk" is past. 

As in the sound-cameras, the question of vibra- 
tion has had to be studied very carefully. When 
these printers came to be used for sound-track, 
they were continuous printers, it is true, but it 


was frequently possible to hear on the finished 
sound-track the sound of the sprocket perforations 
as they were engaged by the sprocket rollers which 
were drawing the films through the machine. 

This was found to be due to two causes; the 
first of these was a purely optical one, and the 
second a rather unexpected mechanical one. 

Troubles are still being experienced due to 
slight irregularities in the perforations on the 
film, and it was found that noise and vibration 
was being caused by the fact that three pairs of 
perforations were engaged at a time on each side 
of the film as it travelled through the machine. 
The first pair were just engaging with the 
sprockets, the second pair were actually in mesh, 
the third pair being just on the point of release, 
thus putting stresses on to the film which caused 
sufficient vibration to be heard on the sound- 

The optical trouble was caused by the mask 
that covered the sound-track section while the 
picture was being printed. It did not adequately 
prevent light from getting on to the masked 
portion by way of the perforations. 

In order to avoid these optical difficulties, 
efforts are being made to allow a margin of about 
1 or 2-thousandths of an inch between the 


pictures and the sound-track and sound-track 
and the line of the sprocket holes, a precaution 
which helps also to prevent the light from 
getting on to the track edgeways through the 
film. It is particularly important to see that 
fogging of this kind does not occur, because the 
scenes in Talkies are usually much longer than 
those of silent films, and a re-shoot would be 
even more expensive than previously. 

This chapter, too, might be very much longer 
than it is, but it is time to call a halt, and to pass 
on to other matters. 

Next time, however, that you go to a Talkie 
you will perhaps be forbearing if you hear a 
"plonk" or two, or see the sound-track dancing a 
Highland fling up the edge of the screen ; and you 
will remember something of the troubles and 
triumphs of one of the most remarkable industries 
in the world. 



Readers will, by now, have formed some idea of 
the legion of problems which beset the producers 
of Talkies, who are, however, not alone in this 

The theatre proprietors have their troubles as 

The whole business of picture projection has 
been modified out of all recognition. The old-time 
operators had only to see that their machines were 
giving a clear, steady picture, and that the projec- 
tors were maintained in a satisfactory condition. 

All that is changed now. The operator, closeted 
in his stuffy and sometimes hopelessly inadequate 
little box, rarely visible, except perhaps for a 
glimpse of his perspiring head stuck out of a 
window, or merely hinted at by the shadow of 
his hand across the screen, has become very 
much more than a mere mechanic. He and his 
assistants have their fingers on the pulse of the 
loudspeakers, and, high up in the projection- 
room, he listens attentively for the signals from 
his colleagues sitting quietly among the unsuspect- 
ing audience. It is they who advise him as to how 


things are sounding in the theatre, and tell him 
when to make the proper adjustments so necessary 
for the success of the film. 

Cinema proprietors will have to readjust their 
ideas as to how cheaply they can employ men of 
small ability, and by a more bulky pay envelope 
banish indifference and encourage keen attention 
to detail, by which alone they can hope to recoup 
the cost of installing Talkie apparatus. 

The chances of having a peep into the operating 
room of a theatre, especially if it is showing 
Talkies, are rare. If, however, we were to knock 
at the door and enter armed with a pass from the 
Manager, we should have to stand still for a 
moment while our eyes accustomed themselves 
to the gloom within ; we should then realize that 
the sharp stabs of light which stared at us like 
eyes out of the darkness were coming from the 
giant projectors standing in a row, trained like 
guns through the iron-clad shutters on to the 
glistening screen a hundred feet below. Gradually 
we should be able to make out the crouching 
figure of an operator, half sitting, half standing, 
beside a projector, peering intently at the screen, 
his face lit up by the unearthly bluish light from 
the inspection window in the side of the enormous 
machine he is tending. 


A voice out of the darkness says, "Stand by," 
and, as we watch, a second machine stammers 
and splutters into action, revealing a second figure 
listening intently to the purr of the driving motor 
as it wakes into life and settles down into a steady 
hum. "Get ready," says the voice again ; and we 
stand back, and instinctively flatten ourselves 
against the wall. "Now," raps out the voice 
again ; down clangs one iron shutter and up goes 
the other as the second machine takes up the 
tale and the first operator straightens himself up 
and slips off his stool, to shake us by the hand 
and nod a rather weary greeting to his chief. Glad 
to get away from the squawking of the checking 
loudspeaker overhead, we slip down into the 
"house" to hear what the "stuff" sounds like. 
As we stumble among the familiar rows of seats, 
our minds go back to those silent figures in their 
gloom-wrapped aerie, peering unblinkingly into 
the darkness below ; and we begin to realize how 
practically everything that happens in the "front" 
of the house is controlled by these men. When 
we return to the operating box we find the chief 
seated in front of the electric reproducer, pouring 
a torrent of interval music into the auditorium ; 
while the machines are being loaded with the 
next silent picture, and the records which have 


been selected for its incidental music are being 
checked over. 

At a sign from the operator in charge, someone 
goes over to a switch on the wall and the lights 
below fade from one colour to another, until, on 
the word "open," we catch a glimpse of the red- 
plush curtains sweeping apart, as the operator 
beside us starts his electric orchestra with the flick 
of a switch, and the projector shears the darkness 
below with its dancing ray of drama-laden light. 

These men are the show now. The organ has 
gone, the orchestra has gone; only the ladies of 
the lamp and the girl in the pay-booth are left, 
with her automatic ticket machine, which spits 
out what you want almost before the words have 
fallen from your mouth, and pours a jingling 
cascade of change into your hand as soon as it 
glimpses the colour of your money. 

In manipulating the film the very greatest care 
has now to be taken to prevent damage to the 
sound-track, whose microscopic message is mag- 
nified nearly a hundred million times before it 
reaches the loudspeakers. A faint scratch, quite 
invisible to the eye, may emerge from the loud- 
speakers as a harsh background of noise which 
will disgust the most tolerant of audiences. 

Operators can no longer whirl their film rewind- 


ing machines at the terrific speed to which they 
have been accustomed; and theatre proprietors 
will have to recognize the paramount necessity of 
providing adequate accommodation for the men 
who produce the show if they are to keep out the 
dust and oil stains so deadly to the delicate 
graduations of the sound-track. 

From this point of view the gramophone 
record method of sound-track has much to 
recommend it under present conditions of com- 
mercial usage, for, as I have mentioned, experi- 
ence of film sound-tracks does not at present 
justify any belief that their useful life is as long as 
the picture to which they are giving breath. For 
it must be remembered that while damage to the 
surface of the picture portion, caused largely in 
the past by the careless slapdash methods of 
operators, can be considerable before it begins to 
irritate the eye, it requires very little to offend the 
ear. It is true that, especially with Talking pic- 
tures, whose entertainment value is very high even 
at their present stage of development, the ear 
becomes more or less accustomed to imperfec- 
tions ; but as time goes on the point when these 
imperfections become sufficiently noticeable to 
affect the box-office receipts will be far more 
easily and quickly reached, 


Special care will, in the future, have to be taken 
to avoid the risk of breaking the film to prevent 
the point where the film has been spliced emerging 
from the theatre loudspeakers as a crash which 
would spoil the most effective scenes, although 
even in this most delicate operation experience 
has taught operators that they can delete as many 
as nine "frames" or pictures without seriously 
spoiling the film. 

It is not for nothing that the Vitaphone Com- 
pany still favour the utilization of gramophone 
records instead of film sound-track. At this 
present stage of development, and with the lack 
of educational facilities for operators, many of 
these have not yet realized that they are handling 
a far more fragile commodity than the picture 
reels of but a few years ago. 

One disadvantage, however, of gramophone 
records is the fact that if the film breaks badly it is 
not possible to splice the record to compensate 
for the shortened film. Blanks have therefore to be 
introduced into the film so that the mended 
portions of the film still coincide with the records 
which are not always, incidentally, entirely un- 
blameworthy themselves, from the point of view 
of synchronization with a perfectly new film. Not 
50 long ago a case occurred which put the audience 


into shrieks of laughter. The man on the screen 
was engaged in kicking someone else out of the 
room. He accompanied this violent procedure 
with honeyed words of welcome which were 
intended for a character who was yet to be 

It is not unlikely that most Talkie theatres 
will eventually use screens which are sound 
porous, so that the sound from the loudspeakers 
will not be muffled. These screens are not, in 
general, so efficient from the point of picture pro- 
jection; and there is a considerable temptation to 
the operators to increase the intensity of their 
projector lamps to compensate for this loss of 
efficiency, with serious risk of damage to the 

Operators will have to keep a sharp look-out 
for dirty switches and leaky wiring if they are 
to avoid the troubles from electrical interference 
over which their comperes in the studios have 
suffered such nightmares. 

The same elaborate precautions to avoid electri- 
cal interference which are taken in the studios 
have to be repeated in the theatre operating 
room. The whole of the system has to be carefully 
screened in metal boxes in order that not the 
slightest trace of electrical interference shall be 


able to reach the photo-electric cell. Differences of 
electrical potential from these cells are very small, 
and very trifling interferences picked up, either 
directly on the cell or on the wire leading to the 
amplifiers, are sufficient to cause trouble. 

In order to avoid such trouble, and for other 
electrical reasons, the Western Electric Company, 
whose sound-projection apparatus is to be found 
all over the world, actually mount a valve amplifier 
immediately behind the cell on the projector 
itself. This amplifier is very carefully screened and 
suspended on springs in order to avoid vibration. 
By this method the impulses from the projector 
are rendered sufficiently robust to allow them to 
be taken to the rest of the apparatus, which may 
be installed some distance away. 

Since the Western Electric Company make pro- 
vision for disc recording as well as film, their 
apparatus is manufactured in the form of a base 
on to which standard projectors may be mounted. 
This base carries the gramophone turn-table and 
electrical pick-up, as well as a photo-electric cell 
attachment for film records. The recording on 
each successive disc record is cleverly arranged 
so that it overlaps from the end of one on to the 
beginning of the next, and the operator is able, 
by turning a special switch, to fade over from 


one to the other, finally transferring the music or 
speech so that it comes entirely from the new 
record. This fading requires a good deal of very 
careful rehearsal, the lack of which used some- 
times to be only too painfully obvious. Just as 
the orchestra or organist must have their cue 
sheets laboriously worked out before the first 
performance, so the operators, especially if they 
are running disc and film, will have to spend a 
good deal of time on their preliminary runs in 
order to make sure that they do not make a mis- 
take of a few seconds ; such a slip may put the 
whole of the ensuing record out of time with the 
film, until the opportunity comes to go back on 
to the other machine again. 

The Western Electric machine provides for the 
alternative projection of sounds recorded on discs 
or on either type of film, by the turn of a switch. 
Where this apparatus scores over some of its 
competitors is in that a very ingenious unit ensures 
that the speed of the driving motors are kept 
constant within remarkably fine limits. That this 
is of the utmost importance will be realized when 
it is learnt that a speed variation of only half a 
part in a hundred is sufficient in some cases to 
produce a marked change in pitch; an effect 
similar to that of a gramophone which is begin- 


ning to run down, or one which has just been 
speeded up. The ear is very sensitive to changes 
of this kind, and a change of pitch of one part in a 
hundred will be noticeable, if it is made suddenly. 
The device which effects the speed control is of 
a nature rather too complicated to come within 
the scope of this book. But it may be noted that 
it is a most ingenious adaptation of the principles 
of tuning known to all users of radio sets, and 
functions by reason of the fact that any change 
of the speed of the motors automatically allows 
less or more power to reach the machines. 

The question of speed control is likely to 
become acute in the smaller country theatres. 
Many of these rely on a small steam or petrol 
driven plant, which has hitherto had only to 
supply sufficient power for the theatre lights and 
the arc-lamps at the projectors — there are actually 
still some in use which are turned by hand! 
Such conditions are naturally quite out of the 
question for Talkie work, for while the power 
demanded for the driving motors is small, there 
is a serious risk that the sudden rise which may 
occur in the demand on the electrical supply plant, 
say when the second machine is started up, may 
cause a momentary drop in pressure, with a 
consequent drop in pitch of the speech and music 


C •- H 

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from the loudspeakers, due to the slackening in 
speed of the driving motor. 

Heavier fly-wheels may have to be fitted on to 
existing engines to prevent such momentary 
slowing up of the dynamos ; and in some cases, 
where the supply is taken from service mains, 
which may be too variable, "buffer" batteries will 
have to be installed to compensate for any sudden 
increases of load. 

Inadequate wiring will have to be attended to, 
and switch gear which is in any way faulty will 
have to be carefully overhauled. The price of the 
present Talkie installations has hitherto prevented 
the smaller houses from considering the possibility 
of using them ; and a large number of concerns 
have seized the opportunity to produce a variety 
of cheap installations for the smaller houses. Many 
of these are not likely to have a very long life 
if they do not provide adequate means of stabiliz- 
ing the speed of the machine. Nearly all use disc 

The film passes through the projector at a 
speed of ninety feet per minute, and is provided 
with the necessary loops to ensure that after it 
has passed through the picture gate it is able to 
stream past the photo-cell at a perfectly regular 


When disc records are used, the sounds from 
them are translated into electrical impulses by an 
electrical sound-box most carefully designed to 
eliminate undesirable resonances. This is effected, 
as we have already mentioned, by so designing the 
component parts that any resonances are of such 
a pitch that they do not cause audible trouble in 
the reproduction of music and speech. In one 
case, the whole interior of the device is filled 
with oil. The discs are considerably larger than 
those used in ordinary gramophones, and are, 
for reasons which we have already discussed, 
played at a very much slower speed. They 
will play for ten minutes, which is sufficient to 
last the run of a standard 1,000-foot length of 
film. Although it is not often that even 4,000 
vibrations per second are projected in practice, 
these discs also differ from the records usually 
used in that the needle starts its journey near the 
middle and travels outwards, finishing up at the 
extreme edge of the record. The reason for this 
is that it is at the centre of the record that the 
needle is required to be most efficient, because 
the fine "wobbles" of the higher notes are 
cramped up by the small diameter of the track at 
that point on the record. It is to secure that the 
most difficult part of the record may have the 


benefit of the needle when it is in its best condi- 
tion that the record is played from the centre 
outwards, instead of the usual method of starting 
from the outside and working inwards towards 
the centre. This is undoubtedly the best arrange- 
ment; but it is not possible to use it on records 
made for domestic use, because, especially when 
single-spring motors are used in the cheaper 
gramophones, it is at the end of a record that the 
motor begins to lose strength. If the record were 
to finish at the outer edge, the majority of 
springs would not, in their exhausted state, be 
able to cope with the additional work required to 
pull the record past the needle at the greatly 
increased speed at the outer edge of the record, 
the surface of which is travelling very much 
faster than it does near the centre. 

Disc records, however, do not, as we have said, 
in practice produce very much over 4,000 vibra- 
tions per second at the best of times, and there is a 
noticeable lack of consonants which can produce 
a most unnatural and woolly tone to many 
speakers' voices. The most optimistic published 
details of disc sound-records show that the films 
are capable of a far wider response, although the 
"His Master's Voice" engineers have recently 
produced a most remarkable disc apparatus 



which is in every way as brilliant as film records 
in their present stage of development. 

The illustration of an early B.T.P. sound- 
projector shows clearly the path that a sound- 
film record follows through the machine when 
that method of projection is employed, the posi- 
tion of the photo-cell being clearly shown. It 
will be noticed that the sound-reproducing appa- 
ratus is situated some distance below the picture- 
lens system ; and for this reason the sound-track 
relating to any particular picture is not imme- 
diately opposite that picture, but some 14 inches 
ahead of it, the whole track being printed ahead 
of the pictures by this distance. 

Two machines are usually installed, so that as 
each reel of film is finished, the other machine 
can carry on without disturbing the continuity of 
the programme. This operation is accomplished, 
as I have mentioned, by the fader, which enables 
the operator to pass on the next record to the 
loudspeaker gradually. 

This fader is seen in the accompanying illus- 

In the case of the Western Electric apparatus, 
the main valve-amplifier, whose duty it is to 
amplify the sound from the photo-cell amplifier 
mounted on the machine, is divided into three 


The "Fader." 

[Courtesy of the Western Electric Co. 

To face page 130. 


The High Power Loudspeaker Amplifier. 

[Courtesy of the Western Electric Co. 

[To face page 131. 


portions. The first unit consists of three amplifier 
valves, resistance capacity coupled, which feeds 
into a second unit consisting of two further valves 
arranged in the well-known "push-pull" manner. 
This in turn passes the music and speech to the 
last high-power bank of valves, which feed 
directly into the loudspeakers. This last valve- 
panel does not require any batteries whatever, 
being supplied with the necessary power directly 
from the main electric supply. 

The indifferent results so often heard when 
Talkies are shown must not be blamed entirely 
on the projector system, limited as its frequency 
response at present is. We shall see presently that 
the shape of the hall and the materials of which it 
is built can make or mar the effect of any sound- 
film or disc record, however good it may be. 

There has been in the past a tendency to run 
the loudspeakers so that they give a volume 
quite unnecessarily great for an attentive audience. 
This is largely due to a rather natural desire on the 
part of the operators to get all they can out of 
the installation. Quite apart from the obvious fact 
that a bellowing loudspeaker can rapidly become 
intolerable, there is another reason why a good 
deal more moderation should be exercised. If 
sounds are very loud, there is always a tendency 


for the lower notes to overwhelm the higher 
ones and mask them, with the effect that the higher 
notes and harmonics, which we have seen to be 
of the greatest importance, are largely rendered 
ineffective. This effect is particularly noticeable in 
boys' and women's voices, because not only are 
the harmonics which characterize their voices 
higher, but they are fewer and far weaker than 
those present in the voice of a man. This is quite 
apart from the general principle that these higher 
harmonics are of vital importance to that clearness 
of diction which is a prime necessity if Talkies 
are to be seriously considered as a form of 
entertainment. It has been suggested that two 
separate amplifiers should be employed, and that 
a special loudspeaker should be allocated to deal 
with the higher frequencies alone, in order to 
give them their proper emphasis and compensate 
for the fact that they tend to get lost not only in 
the theatre but in the studios. There is the further 
consideration that, as we have seen, there are 
photographic and gramophonic troubles to be 
contended with, when it comes to the recording 
of these more rapid vibrations. 

The Western Electric Company prefer to use 
horn loudspeakers, and there is this to be said 
for them; that where "blind spots," which we 


Two Western Electric Loudspeakers (a Screenhorn 
and Small "Monitoring" Horn). 

[Courtesy oj the Western Electric Co. 

t page 132. 


shall discuss a little later, are encountered, the 
directional effect of the horn-type speaker has 
great advantages. It is obvious that a horn can be 
directed towards any particular part of a theatre in 
which reception is poor. 

Another claim for these loudspeakers is that 
their directional properties enable them, if they 
are mounted behind the screen, to create the 
illusion that the sound is actually coming from the 
actors seen on the screen. 

Some consider that every possible means should 
be employed to create this impression ; and others 
believe that, as the public has had to adapt itself 
to the silent picture, so it will adapt itself to 
the Talkie, wherever the loudspeakers are 

There is one difficulty which seems likely to 
support the latter view. In large theatres there is 
the distinct possibility that, if the loudspeakers 
are all situated behind the screen, the audience 
at the back of the hall may find that the sound 
from the screen speakers might have to travel so 
far that the words would arrive out of synchronism 
with the movements of the lips of the actors on 
the screen. This has indeed already been noticed 
in some halls. This is precisely what happens in 
the case of actual speakers on a stage. The audience, 


however, is in that case not on the look out for it — 
a rather subtle matter of psychology. 

Although there are two schools of thought as 
to the relative merits of horn and moving coil 
loudspeakers and their position, there is a strong 
tendency, not only to use horns, but to bunch 
them together even more closely than they were 
before. The experience of the most successful 
Talkie projector installation concern, the Western 
Electric Company, cannot be ignored. There was 
at one time, however, a tendency to go over to 
the moving-coil type, and the Radio Corporation 
of America still uses them, it being argued that 
while the moving-coil type requires a little more 
attention, it is far more easy to design a speaker ot 
this kind for given conditions than one of the 
horn type ; moreover, the horn is itself expensive 
to make if it is to give adequate results, and it is 
also very bulky. This is a serious consideration if 
the speakers are placed behind the screen, on a 
stage which is required between films for variety 
or vaudeville turns, or for one of those picturesque 
prologues which are nowadays staged before a big 
film. The lift manufacturers in America have been 
busy designing loudspeaker elevators, one of 
which is shown, which enable the stage manager 
to whisk them up into the roof or move them on 


A Movable Horn "Tower." 

[Courtesy of the Western Electric Co. 

[To face page 134. 


one side, if he wants the stage for other work. 
The moving-coil type can, however, be installed 
round the edge of the screen and remain in 
position out of the way, whether in use or not. 

When film recording is done on Western 
Electric apparatus, the variable density method is 
used; doubtless this Company consider that this 
method is the best. That view is, however, not 
held by the Radio Corporation of America, who 
not only use coil-driven loudspeakers, but main- 
tain that the variable area method of recording, 
which they employ exclusively, is capable of a 
greater range of sound reproduction than the 
variable density method. There is, moreover, the 
undoubted advantage that this form of film record 
is far simpler to handle from the point of view of 
printing and development. The difficulty that the 
variable density film, with its delicate graduations, 
requires a different contrast treatment to the picture 
portion, does not arise when variable area records 
are made; because the sound-record is, as we 
have seen, either dead black or practically clear 

The projectors of the Radio Corporation of 
America are also capable of handling disc records, 
a device being provided for maintaining a constant 
speed in the projectors. This consists of a revolving 


governor mounted on the shaft of the driving 
motor — not unlike that used on a gramophone, 
with the exception that, instead of there being a 
friction brake, a variable electrical resistance is 
controlled by the governor, which allows more or 
less power to pass to the motors. This arrange- 
ment is, it is claimed, in every way as efficient as 
the electrical drive of the Western Electric Com- 
pany, and it has the advantage of being extremely 
robust in construction. 

From the point of view of the owners of picture 
houses, the apparatus produced by the Radio 
Corporation of America has the great merit of 
being cheaper than the Western Electric appa- 
ratus; and there is no reason to doubt that the 
results from a bank of modern coil-driven loud- 
speakers more than justify their installation, and 
that they are at least as capable of giving accurate 
reproduction as the trumpets of the Western 
Electric system. The public will in the long run 
say on what machines they prefer their Talkies 

The horn is capable of producing a greater 
volume for a given power input ; but it is quality, 
and not a superabundance of quantity, that is 
wanted; and there seems little doubt that the 
moving-coil speaker, with its power of wide sound 


dispersions, will continue to find favour among 
Talkie experts. 

Already one big London theatre Manager 
reports that he has been inundated with letters 
thanking him for not showing Talkies ; and other 
cinemas are adopting the policy of showing half 
Talkies and half Silent programmes. If this sort 
of thing continues, the manufacturers will have 
only themselves to blame. 

The tendency to design apparatus so that it will 
give a performance that is just good enough to 
make money is to be deplored, although the 
enormous expense involved in experimental work 
offers some excuse for this attitude. What is 
wanted is a constant striving after better and better 

It is to be hoped that the advance and com- 
mercial application of this science, at least, will 
not be arrested because it has reached a stage 
when the financiers are satisfied that they will see 
their money back with interest. 

If Talkies are to be a success, better reproduc- 
tion will have to be the order of the day; and 
the sooner the makers of projectors realize that 
their audiences will not put up with more than 
an experimental period of the squawks that are 
supposed to represent voices, the better it will be 


for the art. For there is no reason why the 
"Talking Picture" should not be an art in the 
fullest sense of the word. 

A well-known film magnate and erstwhile 
proprietor of a very large number of picture 
houses, who recently addressed a gathering of 
electrical and radio engineers, laid considerable 
stress on the fact that, while he and his associates 
were fully capable of producing films, they would 
not be successful until those whom he was 
addressing had produced efficient valves and loud- 
speakers. In other words, it was "up to them" to 
make Talkies a success. It was pointed out to him 
that, however good the films and loudspeakers 
were, a very great deal depended on the theatre 
in which they were being exhibited. His reply, 
that a hall which was good for a voice was good 
enough for a loudspeaker, indicated that at least 
one cinema proprietor had a good deal to learn; 
and that he was evidently quite unaware that the 
British Radio and Electrical industry had the 
production of the apparatus he required well in 

A large number of picture houses, especially 
in the provinces, were not built primarily for 
sound. Many are long tunnels of buildings with 
curved roofs, crowded in a narrow space between 


shops and offices in busy thoroughfares. The 
installation engineers are already beginning to 
find this out. Halls built as theatres, with at least 
some eye to their acoustic properties, are proving 
an easier problem than those with large expanses 
of smooth wall, bare seats, and thinly carpeted 
gangways. In such houses it is frequently neces- 
sary to have nearly twice as much amplification 
for the hall when it is full, as is necessary when 
it is half empty. Walls should be broken up by 
recesses, pillars, and other architectural features, 
in order to avoid the need of introducing areas of 
sound-absorbent material, which, while prevent- 
ing excessive reverberation, result in unfair sup- 
pression of the already unfortunate, yet so 
important, high frequencies. Very lofty ceilings, 
if they are more than 50 or 60 feet high, tend 
to produce echoes which may be most discon- 
certing. These can, however, be prevented to a 
large extent by the coffering or recessing of 
ceilings, and by the provision of surfaces rendered 
irregular by plaster work and carving of one sort 
or another. Candelabra and other metal fittings 
have been known to produce trouble by jingling 
sympathetically when certain notes are played, 
an effect similar to that noticeable on pianos, when 
some ornament is not resting firmly on the top. 


Sound, while not entirely similar, has certain 
points in common with light: it obeys the laws 
of reflection and to some extent those of refrac- 
tion or the bending of a ray ; it can very readily 
be focused. If the sound of a chord played on 
the piano be passed through a prism, not of glass, 
but of some gas denser than air, enclosed in a 
film of gold-beater's skin, that chord will be 
split into its component sounds as surely as light 
is resolved into the colours of the rainbow when 
it passes through a prism of glass. This method 
may even be applied to the analysis of the 
harmonics that give the characteristic "timbre" 
to a single note from any instrument. 

Sound, like light, will be reflected from hard 
surfaces as an echo. It will even cause large 
areas of wall to tremble when they are sympathetic 
to the sound which is impinging on them; and 
booming effects will be produced which will 
destroy definition, or introduce an air of arti- 
ficiality into the most perfectly reproduced music 
or speech. Echoes and reverberations are pregnant 
with trouble for Talkie installation engineers. 
Walls or roofs which are curved collect the 
sound and, by concentrating it into narrow rays, 
focus it only on to certain portions of the 
auditorium, leaving the rest in a sea of meaningless 


echoes and reverberations. The problem is further 
complicated by the fact that it is at present 
considered desirable to place the loudspeakers 
behind the special sound-porous screens fitted in 
theatres showing Talking Pictures, in order to 
heighten the illusion that the sound is coming 
from the screen. Where, therefore, there is an 
enclosed space behind the screen, this has to be 
very carefully draped, in order to prevent echoes 
and reverberations from it reaching the audience 
instead of the direct sound-wave from the loud- 

The time for which a sound will linger in an 
auditorium before it finally becomes inaudible 
is of the utmost importance. If this period is too 
long successive sounds and syllables of words 
will, as it were, trip over each other and produce 
a confused babel, the understandability of which 
is very poor. A shot fired into the open air is 
heard as a sharp crack, but if it is discharged in an 
enclosed room, it becomes a booming series of 
reverbations caused by the sound echoing back- 
wards and forwards between the walls and ceilings. 
A great deal can be done by the introduction of 
sound-absorbing materials ; and a definite mathe- 
matical process has been evolved by which it is 
possible to calculate with reasonable accuracy, 


even before it is built, how long a sound should 
be allowed to persevere in a hall. This varies for 
speech or music, so that at the best, theatres can 
only be designed on a basis of compromise. 

This period of time is called the period of 
"reverberation," and experience has taught engi- 
neers what periods are most satisfactory for 
various kinds of performance. A given sound 
should not last longer than a second, if speech 
is to be heard under ideal conditions. On the 
other hand, z\ seconds is not too long for the 
right appreciation of orchestras. Sound-recording 
engineers have to take all these points into con- 
sideration when they are making their pictures, 
which have to be recorded in such a manner that 
they will reproduce correctly in any hall of the 
average type. 

The booming nature of a concert hall which is 
half empty is due to the fact that the hall has been 
so built, either by design or lack of it, that, unless 
a full audience is present, presenting considerable 
areas of several layers of clothing material, the 
period of reverberation is far too long. The 
modern cinematograph theatre, with its rows of 
luxuriously upholstered seats, is not thus furnished 
entirely for the physical comfort of its audience. 
The problem of the half-empty hall can be, and is 


being, largely overcome by the introduction of 
heavily upholstered seats and thick carpets. The 
absorption effect is so high, whether or not anyone 
is sitting in them, that the other characteristics of 
the hall, such as the walls and ceilings, can be so 
designed that the sound conditions are reasonably 
satisfactory even when the hall is practically empty, 
the effect of the presence or absence of an audience 
being rendered of less importance to the acoustics 
of the hall by the large areas of upholstery which 
are already present. 

Readers who have visited them may have 
noticed that the walls are split up into panels, 
and that the ceilings are frequently "coffered" or 
recessed, with the addition of large decorative 
gratings. They will realize, after what has been 
said, that the reason for these things is not a 
purely decorative one; but that the breaking up 
of large areas of walls into panels covered with 
special material prevents undesirable reverbera- 
tions. The recessed ceilings have the same effect, 
while the gratings are frequently placed where a 
point of undesirable echo has been found. Some 
of them are ventilators; but others, although 
they look the same, are merely backed by an 
enclosed cavity lined with thick felt-like materials, 
which will absorb the impinging waves and pre- 


vent their being thrown back at the audience as a 
blurred reflection of the original sound. 

It is not generally possible for the Talkie 
engineer to make actual changes in the architecture 
of buildings with which he has to deal. But a very 
great deal can be done by arranging areas of 
suitable sound-absorbing material at points where 
disturbing reflections are found to be taking 
place. There is a danger, however, that if this is 
done too much serious distortion may take place 
due to the fact that there are few materials which 
do not maltreat the higher notes. Although the 
principles of acoustic design and correction have 
been known for many years, there are as yet few 
who have the experience or the necessary testing 
apparatus to enable them to render unsatisfactory 
buildings suitable for Talkie production; and 
Talkie installation engineers are daily confronted 
with incredible constructional stupidities. 

The importance of rendering buildings fire- 
proof has, in the past, tended to introduce hard 
materials which are likely to reflect sounds to a 
considerable extent. Concrete, for instance, will 
absorb only a little over one-hundredth of a 
sound which is directed against it, while such 
materials as oil-cloth and glass are little better. 
A method which has been in use for some time 


for tracing the position from which undesirable 
echoes originate, employs a highly polished re- 
flector which will reflect sound and light at the 
same time. A hissing arc or a noisy spark is 
placed at the focus of the reflector and the sound 
emitted by it is then thrown from the reflector 
in the form of a "bundle" (to use Professor 
Watson's word) of sound waves. At the same 
time the light itself is collected and thrown 
as a ray which strikes the wall or ceiling 
under investigation, at the same point as the 
sound-ray. By moving this combined sound- 
and light-ray around, it is possible by listen- 
ing carefully, and stopping it when a bad echo 
is found in some part of the house, to look 
up and see the spot of light resting on that 
portion of the wall or ceiling which is re- 
flecting the sound-ray. This method of making 
the track of sound-rays visible enables the acoustic 
engineer to cover these danger points with felt 
or some other sound absorbing material so that 
the sound is reflected only to a desired extent. 
Care, however, has, as I have said, to be taken in 
choosing the most suitable materials ; for not all 
are capable of absorbing the whole range of fre- 
quencies to the same extent. Some materials, such 
as certain thick carpets, will, for instance, absorb 


three times as much of the sound of higher notes 
as they will of lower notes ; a fact that may lead 
to a very serious lack of distinctness. 

Not only are the actual materials from which 
halls are built, or with which they are decorated, 
of the utmost importance, but very careful atten- 
tion has to be paid to the question of ventilation 
and the admission of external noises, which are 
to some extent linked together. All that was 
required in the days of the silent film was that the 
air should be circulated as quickly and efficiently 
as possible. To-day every method of air extraction 
has had to be carefully examined, to ascertain 
what effect constantly circulating eddies and layers 
of air of different temperatures are likely to have 
on the reproduction of sound from loudspeakers. 
The method used in many halls, of removing the 
foul air from a dome in the centre of the roof, 
has been found by Talkie installation engineers 
to be particularly liable to give trouble. Any 
cross-currents materially affect the sound, and 
the noise of ventilating fans coming from the 
ventilator shafts has proved, in certain cases, 
to be a serious nuisance. This can, however, be 
largely reduced by lining the ventilation shafts and 
air ducts with material which has a high capacity 
for sound-absorption, placing baffle plates across 


their extremities and suspending or mounting the 
fans on vibration-proof materials. Really bad elec- 
trical interference, such as that caused by fans or 
pumps or even lifts, whose motors are not in 
good condition and are sparking badly, have been 
known to cause serious interference with a Talkie 

The audience will have to be protected from 
sudden bursts of noise from the street as patrons 
enter and leave the auditorium; and the old- 
fashioned curtains, negligently swept on one side 
with a rattle by one of the ladies with the torch- 
lamp, will have to be replaced by silent double 
doors. Faulty ventilation has been known to 
contribute a good deal to this trouble where 
the arrangement is such that when the doors into 
the auditorium are opened, the air pressures 
cause a noisy rabble of unwanted sounds to enter, 
which will be quite as maddening as the gusts of 
wintry air that used to waft round our legs every 
time a patron entered or left the building. Doors 
should be arranged so that they close completely. 
It has been shown that the sealing of the cracks 
between a door and its frame can effect an improve- 
ment of as much as 30 percent, in its sound-proof 

The art of producing "noises off" has been 


developed to an art during the last few years. 
One remarkable machine, looking like a miniature 
organ, is said to be capable of every noise from a 
sob to the buzz of a mosquito, not to mention 
the sound of horses' hoofs, aeroplanes and gunfire. 
The sound-film has given a tremendous impetus to 
this sort of thing; and it is said that at Hollywood 
a library of film noises of every conceivable kind 
is being formed, which can be hired for adding to 
the sound-tracks of new Talkies, as and when 
required. Everything is included in this remark- 
able epitome of cacophony, from the roar of 
Niagara to the throbbing tom-toms of West 
Africa and Chinese popular songs. The perspiring 
individual with the coconuts who "did" the 
horses' hoofs, and furiously wound the wind 
machine at appropriate moments, threatens to 
become a thing of the past, except for the super- 
experts, who, for fabulous salaries, are racking 
their brains thinking of fresh horrors to add to 
their collection. 

Gramophone records have been used for some 
time for "effects" in broadcasting, especially for 
such things as the cheering of crowds, and the 
noises of animals and birds, such as seagulls. But 
the sound-film opens up all kinds of other 
possibilities : who knows that the publishers will 


not have to issue their books in film form, so 
that the public will no longer have to burn 
unnecessary light of an evening, but will be able 
to sit back and have the "thriller" read aloud to 
them, complete with pistol shots, osculations, and 
throttlings by some golden- voiced expert? 

In America the "Smellies" have actually 
arrived, and the firm of Metro Goldwin Meyer 
are claiming to be the pioneers of this latest 
pandering to yet a further sense. As a matter of 
fact the idea of flooding the auditorium with 
suitable perfumes at points in the film was adopted 
at least a year ago in London. 

It does not sound, or rather sound as if it smelt, 
particularly attractive ; especially for the unfortu- 
nates who happen to be near to one of the machines 
which are flooding the auditorium with the con- 
centrated aroma of anything from carnations to 
Billingsgate ! And means will have to be provided 
to remove one smell before the next one comes 
along ! 

The idea of "atmospheric" cinema theatres is 
taking hold, and theatres which give the audience 
the impression that they are watching their picture 
in an Italian garden or from a terrace at Monte 
Carlo, are being built here. This has been claimed 
as an American invention ; but some of us still 


remember the old Egyptian Hall in London where 
so many mysteries were performed twenty years 
ago. Before long we shall be sitting in real flower 
gardens, and will be able to gather a poesy or 
two as we go out, to take home as a reminder 
of our two hours' stay in Naples, or wherever 
the genius of the proprietor of the cinema has 
transplanted us for our modest half-crowns. We 
may, indeed, be thankful that we do not have to 
squat for hours on end between narrow box 
hedges about six inches high, as they have to do 
in Japan. But we may even have to do that, if 
the film is Japanese! 




Colour vision is a very intricate and debatable 
subject, into the philosophy of which it is not 
necessary for us to enter here. But it will be well 
to have some general ideas as to what colour is 
and how it can be more or less accurately repro- 
duced by photographic means. 

Isaac Newton is known to the world at large as 
the first person who sought an explanation of the 
everyday fact that an apple falls downwards from 
a tree ; indeed, falls with sufficient force to cause 
pain if it happens to fall on the face of a philoso- 
pher reclining under the tree. From this praise- 
worthy curiosity followed "The Law of Gravita- 
tion," which, subject to relatively small modifica- 
tions due to Einstein, remains the basis of 
terrestrial and astronomical Physics. It was a far 
greater contribution to human knowledge than 
any that had been made before his day. 

Newton also claims attention as the inventor 
of the reflecting telescope, in which the light 
rays from a star are collected and brought to a 
focus by a hollow mirror, instead of by a lens, 
as in Galileo'5 telescope. The use of a concave 


mirror instead of a lens was another great stroke 
of genius, inasmuch as one surface of a mirror 
is easier to grind and polish to optical perfection 
than two surfaces of a lens, and the question of 
troubles arising from the passage of light rays 
through a transparent medium do not arise. 

But there is a third debt the world owes to 
Newton, and that is the one with which we are 
more immediately concerned. He discovered and 
to a large extent established for all time the nature 
and origin of visible colour. 

Millions of ordinary men had said : "There is a 
rainbow ; there are red roses, violet pansies, green 
leaves." It required a Newton to ask: "Why is 
there a rainbow; and is there any connection 
between its existence and the colours in a garden?" 
Millions had also seen splashes of exquisite colour 
reflected from, or perhaps it would be better to 
say refracted through, a cut gem, or even a 
dewdrop lying in the fold of a leaf. They also 
knew that as the daylight fades colours become 
faint and indefinite, and finally disappear. They 
must also have observed that by candle light the 
colours were in many cases modified almost 
beyond recognition. 

Again it required a Newton to seek and find an 
explanation for these common happenings. 


Men naturally think in terms of daylight, which 
they have agreed to call white light, and it seems 
an obvious thing now, after Newton has pointed 
the way, to assume that the colours we see flashed 
from a colourless gem in daylight must be in the 
white light itself. 

Newton went to work again logically by 
allowing a narrow ray of sunlight to pass through 
a slit in a shutter into a dark room. A band of 
white light was thrown on to the opposite wall, 
until Newton placed in the path of the ray the 
simplest form of evenly cut glass, a three-sided 
straight prism, with its long edge parallel to the 
slit. Then a miracle happened ! Firstly, the white 
image of the slit was bent out of its path up the 
wall, which Newton may quite probably have 
expected. Secondly, and here is our point of 
supreme interest, the white image was drawn 
out into a glorious band of colours, graduating 
from red at the bottom, through orange, yellow, 
green, and blue, to violet at the top. Newton 
had found the explanation of the visibility of 
colours in nature. 

Many great minds have worked on the basis of 
Newton's discovery. Goethe, Maxwell, Young, 
Helmholts, and a host of others. But Newton's 
gift remains for us intact, the knowledge that the 


colours of nature or art are only visible to us by 
virtue of their being contained in the light that 
falls upon them. Daylight contains them all, arti- 
ficial light contains them partially and in varying 
degrees of strength. That is why a housewife wish- 
ing to match a ribbon in an electric-lighted shop 
carries it into the daylight at the door, and why an 
artist says that he cannot "paint by artificial light." 
The electric arc gives the light most nearly 
approximate to daylight in ordinary use ; whereas 
lamps, candles, and incandescent mantles more 
or less egregiously fail to "come up to standard." 

We now ask ourselves : "Why, if all colours are 
present in daylight, is a rose red, a pansy violet, 
or a leaf green? Why do we see a signal-light 
red or green, or even violet, from the same source 
of light behind it?" And the answer to that query 
is the first step in the direction of solving the 
problem of reproducing the colours of nature in 
projected pictures. 

This is the answer. A thing we call red has the 
capacity for absorbing all the rest of the light 
and colour from the sun's or other rays, and 
giving back, or reflecting, only the red rays we 
see in the rainbow. And the colours of all opaque 
objects depend on the choice they make as to 
what parts of the rainbow series, which we call 


the "spectrum," they will absorb, and what part 
they will reflect. 

In the same way, and this is very important 
for our inquiry, the colour of a transparent thing 
— emerald, port wine, signal glass — depends on 
what parts of the spectrum it absorbs and what 
part or parts it allows to pass through it. Thus, 
if we look at a spectrum, such as Newton pro- 
duced, through certain green solutions, we only 
see the middle of the spectrum. The solution will 
not let red or violet rays pass through it, though 
it may not reflect them. 

It is just worth observing that a liquid which 
absorbs all but one colour from light passing 
through it does not necessarily look that colour 
when seen by reflected light against a dark back- 
ground. For instance, a tumbler of water into 
which a little red ink has been poured shows 
pink, if we look at a light through it. But if we 
place it in sunlight against a dark curtain, it looks a 
yellowish green. That is called "dichroism," and 
is a phenomenon that may become important 

Three-Colour Vision 

It has been a matter of extensive research to 
ascertain how the eye receives and passes on to 


the brain all the great variety of shades of colour. 
An analogy may help to make the matter clear. 
When a tuning fork, or a piano wire, gives out a 
note after being struck, it is because the steel 
of which it is made is a very elastic body 
and continues to quiver, or "vibrate" for quite a 
long time after the blow fell. If it did not do so 
we should only get a click ; but because it does so 
continuously and regularly, so many times a 
second, it shakes the air and causes the same 
number of impacts of air particles to strike the 
drum of the ear. If the number is great, we hear 
a high note ; if it is small, we hear a low note. 
The number of vibrations per second of the 
highest note on a modern piano is about 128 times 
as great as that of the lowest note. All the other 
notes are the result of definite rates of vibrations 
between these two limits. 

Scientists have claimed that, just as the ear can 
receive and convey to the brain air- vibrations, the 
eye can receive very much smaller and very much 
faster vibrations of the mysterious something 
called the Ether, and that the result of this recep- 
tion is the sensation of light. By analogy with 
sound, and it is nothing more than analogy, the 
rainbow band may be considered like a musical 
scale. For it is established that there are fewer 


vibrations per second at the extreme red end than 
there are at the extreme violet end. In fact the 
extreme red rays vibrate only about half as fast 
as the extreme violet rays. Every intervening stage, 
orange, yellow, green, blue, etc., has its own rate 
of vibration ; and it is this fact which accounts 
for violet light being bent further out of the 
straight by a prism than green light is, green 
light further than yellow light, and yellow light 
further than red. On the other hand yellow is 
shifted out of the straight path less than green, 
and green less than violet. Hence the separation 
by a prism of white light, or indeed any coloured 
light, into its component parts. 

The white sunlight with which Newton started 
can be obtained by allowing the spectrum to 
fall on to a large cylindrical lens and bringing it 
to a focus on a screen. The colours then recom- 
bine and a single white image of the slit in the 
shutter is formed. 

It would seem then that a white surface is one 
from which all the colours in sunlight falling upon 
it in natural proportions are reflected in the same 
proportions. Whereas a colourless surface, which 
we call black, is one which absorbs all the colour 
and reflects none. 

Later Young and Helmholts made a very 


curious discovery, which was afterwards investi- 
gated and applied by Frederick Ives to the pro- 
duction of photographic pictures in true colours. 
It was immensely important, because it showed 
that the impression of every gradation of colour, 
starting with pure white, could be produced by 
the use of only three colours. Their theory was 
that the eye had a triple system of nerves for 
receiving colour vibrations, and that all colour 
sensations were caused by exciting one, or any 
two, or all three of these systems more or less 

These three colours, spoken of as "the 
primaries," are red, green, and violet-blue; all 
other shades of colour — orange, yellow, yellow- 
green, greenish blue, even what we call pure blue 
— can be imitated by mixing green rays with red 
rays or with violet rays. It is rather a staggering 
idea that yellow is a mixture of green and red, 
whilst blue is a mixture of green and violet. It 
will not work if we try it by mixing paints of 
these colours ; but that is, as Kipling says, another 
story. Suffice it to say that by letting three bands 
of red, green, and violet-blue light, which fall off 
in intensity from the middle to the ends, lap over 
each other on a screen so that the ends of the 
green reach the middles of the red and violet, we 


can show the semblance of a sunlight spectrum, 
like enough to hoodwink any but a very experi- 
enced optical scientist. It is not the same as a 
spectrum from a prism ; but it looks the same to 
the unaided eye. And that is all we want. 

It is the everyday practice of stage-lighting 
engineers to produce the effect of white daylight, 
as opposed to yellow artificial light, by having a 
close row of footlights with alternating red, 
green, and violet-blue bulbs. 

As there will be occasion to refer to three other 
colours later on, we may as well deal with them 
now. They are called "complementary" colours, 
because they each combine with one of the 
primaries to complete white light. The comple- 
mentary to red must contain the other two pri- 
maries in due proportion, or we should not get 
white; it is blue-green. The complementary to 
green is for the same reason a sort of magenta- 
pink ; and that of violet-blue is yellow. 

We must again beware of thinking in terms of 
paint; for we know that yellow paint and violet 
paint mixed give a dirty green. We are speaking 
of actual beams of coloured light, and it is easy 
enough to show that when a yellow beam and a 
violet beam fall on a clean sheet of paper the 
paper appears a pure white. 



On the assumption, then, that all tints can be 
produced by red, green, and violet-blue light, 
singly, in pairs, or in different proportions of all 
three, it follows that three photographs taken 
through red, green, and violet-blue light-filters 
will, between them, represent everything that is 
visible in the subject photographed. Frederick 
Ives made black and white positives from three 
negatives of coloured subjects taken through 
three such colour-filters. By a most ingenious 
triple projecting lantern the three positives are 
then superimposed on a screen, each by white 
light passing through the same sort of colour 
filter as that through which the particular picture 
was taken. When the three red, green, and violet- 
blue pictures come together on the screen in 
perfect register, the result is simply amazing, 
every detail of line, colour, and texture 
being reproduced. 

The difficulty in applying this process widely 
lies in the necessity for absolute coincidence, 
or "register," of the three pictures; a difficulty 
which is enormously increased in the case of 
moving pictures. 

Ives further applied the three-colour process to 
the production of transparent pictures, which were 
"registered" in themselves, and only required one 


simple lantern for projection. The method he 
adopted was most simple and exquisitely ingeni- 
ous. It was based on the fact that the three 
complementary colours contain the three primaries 
twice over : 

Yellow contains red and green. 

Blue-green contains green and violet-blue. 

Pink contains red and violet-blue. 

It follows that wherever two transparent films 
dyed in complementary colours cross each other, 
one primary colour shows through, namely that 
which is common to the two complementaries. 
But where all three complementaries are super- 
imposed no colour at all shows through. Thus a 
yellow film behind a pink film only allows red 
light to pass. A blue-green film only allows 
green and violet light to pass, and stops all 
red light; that is why it is blue-green. Conse- 
quently, when a blue-green is added to the yellow 
and pink films, all light is stopped; of course, 
assuming that the films are perfect light-filters. 

The illustration overleaf will help to make 
this point clear. Three strips of dyed comple- 
mentary yellow, blue-green and pink film, cut 
to the shape indicated, are superimposed as 

The result is a star with a black centre and points 




of three primaries separated by triangles of the 
three complementaries. 

The intensity of the complementary dyes, 
which means the power of stopping their related 
primaries, may vary very much; these variations 

give rise to corresponding variations in tint in 
the result of superimposing them. Ives availed 
himself of these facts in the following manner. 
By a method which belongs more properly to the 
field of block-process work and need not be 
explained here, he printed from each primary 






























































































































1— 1 



















•— • 























negative a transparent gelatine positive in its 
complementary colour. The intensity of the colour 
in the blue-green positive varied exactly inversely 
with the intensity of the red visible in the object. 
Where there was a full pure red in the object, 
there was no blue-green in the positive print; 
where there was partial red in the subject, there 
was weak blue-green in the print; where there 
was no red in the object there was intense blue- 
green in the print. And so on for all three colours. 
Each of the three complementary positives viewed 
through a glass of the related primary appeared 
to be printed in shades of black and white. 

The three complementary positives were now 
placed one behind the other, with great care to 
secure perfect register, and bound into a slide 
between two glass plates. The result was a trans- 
parency in which every variety of tint was repro- 
duced with remarkable accuracy. Again an illustra- 
tion may help to make the matter clear. 

Let us place the letters where colours occur in 
the subject. 

This process has been referred to in considerable 
detail, because it is along such lines that the per- 
fection of coloured moving pictures is being 

thetalkies 165 

Colour Movies 

One of the very first colour-film processes, 
which some will remember, was Kinemacolor. 
Several big films were released which caused no 
little stir at the time; the films which were best 
known were those of the Investiture of the Prince 
of Wales at Carnarvon, and the Delhi Durbar. 

The Kinemacolor has long since gone the way 
of all flesh, but it was a most ingenious attempt 
to accomplish coloured motion-pictures by a 
photographic method. Only two compromise 
colours were used, red and blue-green, the long- 
suffering eye being expected to supply the rest. 

The film was exposed in a special camera at 
double speed, every alternate picture being exposed 
through a red or blue-green screen, as the case 
might be. This was not true colour registry, 
because each picture was, of course, slightly dif- 
ferent from the last; and when objects were 
moving quickly or near the camera, very weird 
effects were sometimes observable, notably 
colour-fringes on moving objects of any light 

The projectors on which the films were shown 
were also run at double speed in order to bring 
the movement, on the screen, back to normal 


pace, and were fitted with a special revolving 
shutter in front of the lens, which was intended 
alternately to put a red and green celluloid in 
front of the projector as the appropriate pictures 
arrived at the "gate." Unfortunately, this did not 
always synchronize, and consequently there were 
flickering fringes of the two colours (not merely 
due to the fact that no two consecutive pictures 
were quite the same). Indeed, at least one print of 
the Durbar showed the remarkable spectacle of a 
regiment of soldiers marching past, with the red 
stripes on their trousers and their red coats 
following along behind them ! 

Frieze-Greene's colour system was much on the 
same lines, and he, too, used two colours instead 
of three, on consecutive pictures. His system 
differed from Kinemacolor in that he did not rely 
on the vagaries of a more or less erratic revolving 
shutter functioning in front of the projector, 
but actually stained his images alternatively with 
red and green dyes. 

In any colour system that relies on the colour 
images following each other as different pictures, 
fringing will be more or less bad. It would seem 
that the only satisfactory method is to try and put 
the images on top of each other so that each 
picture is a complete colour interpretation. As we 


shall see later, one British firm has actually 
succeeded in superimposing all three colour 
records on each tiny picture. 

There was, too, the Pathecolour, which, while 
giving some very delightful effects, could not by 
any stretch of imagination be described as true 
colour photography; for it was accomplished by 
the almost inconceivable process of actually 
painting each picture of an ordinary black and 
white film. Quite a short run of film, lasting not 
much more than five or six minutes, used some- 
times to take three or four weeks to tint, a job 
which required enough patience to turn Job 
himself green with envy. It was for this reason 
that Pathecolour rarely showed anything of a 
fast moving nature, and confined itself to sylvan 
scenes and the like, which would enable the 
"artists" to cut stencils that could be used for a 
dozen or more pictures before it was necessary 
to make another set. As it was, trees and objects 
of that sort usually appeared on the screen with a 
somewhat indefinite halo of alleged green hover- 
ing vaguely round them. This fringe might some- 
times intrude on the placid waters of a lake, which 
in its turn lent the trees some of its blue. 

Technicolor is probably the film process best 
known to cinema-goers, for this is the system used 


in photographing Douglas Fairbank's Black Pirate, 
and the colour sequences in Broadway Melody \ and 
most present-day American films. In this system 
only two compromise colours are made use of, 
orange-red and blue-green. A special camera has 
to be used. After the rays have passed through 
the lens, they are split up by a prism into two 
portions, one set of rays passing through a red- 
orange screen, and the other set through a blue- 
green screen, before they are allowed to reach 
the film. The prism is so arranged that the two 
images are toe to toe, that is to say, one is upside 
down and the other is the right way up. As two 
pictures are being taken at the same time, the 
camera has had to be specially arranged to move 
on the film two pictures at a time, instead of one 
at a time as in the ordinary cinecamera. For this 
reason the film magazines have had to be enlarged, 
because the camera uses twice as much film in a 
given time. The film is very carefully colour- 
sensitized by means of suitable dyes, so that it 
will respond to a very wide range of colour, 
and it is usual, even when working out of doors, 
to supplement daylight with a few big arc-lamps so 
as to adjust the colour values to the correct pro- 
portions for the film. This has the advantage that it 
is possible to eliminate shadows where they are not 


Contact Print from Technicolor 
Negative. Note the Pairs of 
Pictures Toe to Toe. 

[Courtesy of Technicolor Corporation of America. 
[To face Page 168. 


wanted; you cannot shift the sun, but you can 
shift a few big lamps about so that they take out 
any unwanted shadows. 

The disadvantage of taking two pictures at 
once is that a considerable amount of extra light 
is required. The two pictures now have to be 
printed on top of each other, and the method 
employed, while seeming very simple in principle, 
is one of the prettiest pieces of precision work 
that has ever been seen in the film industry, and 
took four or five years of concentrated research 
to perfect. 

Unlike the ordinary printing apparatus, about 
which we have spoken, there are two printing 
gates instead of one, and two rolls of positive 
film instead of one. 

The negative is passed in contact with one 
positive down through the first gate, through which 
the red-orange sensation negative pictures are 
printed, the mechanism pulling down two negative 
pictures to one positive picture, and thus printing 
the alternate pictures as a continuous strip. This 
positive is then wound on to a spool and the 
negative passes upwards through the second gate, 
where a second positive strip is threaded with it, 
and the blue-green images are thus printed con- 
tinuously in the same manner as the red-orange. 


The next process is so delicate that it is difficult 
to believe that it could possibly be successfully 
achieved for commercial work. The two films 
are cemented together for the whole of their 
length in a special machine which brings them 
together exactly on top of one another. We have 
already mentioned the troubles due to faulty 
perforations, and it will at once be realized how 
vitally important it is that the perforating of the 
two films should be microscopically exact. This 
is essential if the sprockets are to lay the two 
films together correctly in the cementing machine. 
The Technicolor people have had to make their 
own perforating machines and sprockets in order 
to make quite sure that there can be no possible 
chance of the two films being cemented together 

The two films are not at all easy to handle, 
because they are only half the usual thickness of 
cine film, and are therefore very flimsy. They are 
led together on sprockets, and as they pass 
together under a roller, a fine mist of special 
cement is sprayed on to the two inner surfaces 
as they close together. The machine is a marvel 
of ingenuity. The two positives are now cemented 
back to back exactly in register one on the other, 
with the emulsions on the outside. They are then 


developed automatically in a specially designed 
machine so constructed to avoid anything touch- 
ing the surfaces of the film, which is then fixed 
and washed in the usual way. All surplus moisture 
is sucked off pneumatically, and the film then 
passes to the chemical toning troughs. Chemical 
toning should not be confused with the tinting 
method used by Frieze-Greene in which one of 
two dyes was applied externally to the whole of 
each picture, irrespective of colour detail. 

Chemical toning may be done in either of two 
ways. One is actually to change the colour of the 
silver image by chemical action, and the other is 
to dye the silver image the necessary colour by 
means of a basic dye, which is then "mordanted," 
or fixed. The silver is then dissolved out, leaving 
only the dye in its place. 

The practical application of this toning process 
in the Technicolor Laboratories is so delicate 
that it has to be seen to be believed. It is incredibly 
clever, and it would seem impossible that so 
delicate an operation could be performed success- 
fully for so many thousands of feet of film. Each 
side of the film has, of course, to be impregnated 
with the necessary chemicals which will tone the 
image the complementary colour to that of the 
screen through which it was originally photo- 


graphed ; this has to be done without the slightest 
trace of solution getting to the other side only 
six-thousandths of an inch away. Each side of 
the film is just floated — that is the only word for it 
— along the surface of the solutions in a six-foot 
trough, a process requiring the utmost patience 
and scrupulous care. It then is dried automatically 
and sprayed on both sides with a varnish which 
serves the double purpose of fixing the tones and 
protecting the film from scratches in the pro- 
jectors. Where these scratches appear, a flick of 
either bright red or blue can sometimes be seen, 
depending, of course, on which side the damage 
has been done. 

There are possible two disadvantages to this 
system. The first is that the projectors used to-day 
are designed to keep only one side of a film as 
clear of friction as possible, the gates and 
sprockets being arranged so that the film rides 
on the celluloid only. With Technicolor, how- 
ever, both sides of the film are important, and 
there is room for a machine which will protect 
both sides of the film, and this presents a very 
difficult problem, because it means that a con- 
siderably increased strain would be placed on the 
sprocket holes, already the source of quite enough 


A further disadvantage of this double-sided 
film is that with an image on both sides of the 
film there is a slight out-of-focus effect on the 
screen due to the thickness of the film base 
between the two colour images. In other words, 
if the red side is focused on the screen sharply, 
the blue side is slightly out of focus and vice 
versa. A compromise is usually effected whereby 
at the cost of a slight error in focus of both, an 
even effect on the screen is produced. This 
uncritical focus is often mistaken for faulty 
registration of the colours, but this is not so. 

For some years now the Technicolor people 
have been working upon a new principle to obviate 
this defect, and have been attempting to bring 
the colours out on to the same side of the film, 
and what is more, bring in the third colour, and 
altogether make a better job of things generally. 
This new process is now perfected, and arrange- 
ments are rapidly being concluded to put it into 
production; but it is not available at the time 
of writing. 

Among other efforts to get a colour system 
which put a colour on either side of a film, the 
now obsolete system known as the Prisma was 
very much on the same lines. Its sponsors, how- 
ever, seem to have had some trouble with their 


filters, the correct tinting of which is, of course, 
very important. They must not be so coloured 
that they give only a very sharply defined colour 
band, but must allow some graduation of the 
colours on the two sides ; so that they merge and 
cover the spectrum as gradually and completely as 

Multicolor, another American system, follows 
the Technicolor process in its main features. 

An English company, Zoechrome, whose film 
has not yet been seen in public, has attacked this 
problem in a most ingenious way, and has, 
moreover, succeeded in achieving something on 
which Technicolor are still working; that is, 
putting three colours on the same side of the 
film. A camera is used having four lenses 
cemented in a group (three quite small, and one 
ordinary size) which photograph four different 
images of the same aspect at once. The three 
small lenses have behind them the three necessary 
colour screens, red, green, and violet-blue, which 
photograph their respective colour factors simul- 
taneously, but not overlapping on to the space of 
the one ordinary sized picture. Each colour screen 
picture is one quarter the size of an ordinary 
film picture. The fourth lens gets over the 
trouble mentioned previously, of lack of defini- 


Zoechrome Negative. 

[Courtesy of Zoechrome, Ltd. 
[To J ace page 174. 


tion, by photographing an ordinary black and 
white picture which acts, as it were, as an optical 
key on which to superimpose the colour images. 
The fact that four lenses are used instead of one, 
and that a very ingenious modification has been 
made to the shutter, makes it possible to do 
away with the extra lighting usually associated 
with colour work. The camera can be turned at 
the speed and under the same lighting conditions 
as an ordinary cinecamera — a tremendous advan- 
tage over other methods. The illustration shows a 
Zoechrome negative. The coloured positive, of 
course, in a black and white illustration, would be 
no different from an ordinary black and white film. 
The negative is developed in the usual way, 
fixed and dried. In printing Zoechrome have 
again departed radically from ordinary procedure. 
A projection printer is used, which projects the 
images from the negative on to the positive, 
which is in another mechanism, much as an 
ordinary enlarger treats a snapshot, or a magic 
lantern throws a slide on to a screen. The black 
and white key picture of normal size is printed 
first, the negative mechanism pulling down two 
picture spaces to the positive mechanism's one. 
The black and white length is then developed 
to a half-tone depth, that is to say, to form a grey 


and white picture, with no real black, but only 
varying shades of grey. It is then fixed, washed, 
dried, and varnished. The same film is then recoated 
with fresh light-sensitive emulsion on top of the 
grey image, and the first colour-sensation nega- 
tive is enlarged from quarter size to full size, and 
perfectly superimposed on the top of the half-tone 
pictures along the whole length. This is then 
developed, fixed, washed, and toned the comple- 
mentary colour to the screen through which it was 
photographed. Thus the negative taken through a 
red screen produces a positive in varying intensi- 
tives of blue-green. The negative of the violet- 
blue component gives a yellow positive, and that 
of the green component a magenta positive. It 
will be seen from the above that each toning 
colour contains the spectrum minus the colour of 
the photographing filter. 

When the first colour positive has been toned 
with what is known as a basic dye, as distinct 
from an aniline dye, the dye is mordanted or 
fixed, and the silver image is then dissolved out, 
leaving only the dye behind, which is absolutely 

A second coat of varnish is applied when the 
film is dry, and a further coat of emulsion applied 
to receive the second colour; and after this has 


gone through the same process, yet a third 
emulsion is applied on which the third colour 
component is printed in its complementary tone. 

All this sounds very complicated, but actually it 
is automatic throughout, and the final result is no 
thicker than an ordinary black and white positive, 
whereas it has everything on one side of the film. 
It needs no extra strength of light to project it, 
because all the colours are absolutely transparent, 
being only dyes and not part of the detail or 
definition of the picture. All the detail and defini- 
tion of the picture is contained in the half-tone 
key ; so that the colours are only asked to do their 
normal job, i.e. to colour the parts which should 
be coloured. 

Imagine it. Four separate emulsions, four 
separate printings and developings, and three 
layers of varnish so thin that the finished film is no 
thicker than an ordinary single-emulsion film. 

This process is inevitably slightly more costly 
than that of ordinary film production, but it 
entails less anxious ingenuity than the Techni- 
color process involves. 

Another British system, Raycol, uses a prism 
in its camera, as in the Technicolor camera, but 
in Raycol two colour images are photographed 
into the space of one ordinary picture. The screens 


used are orange-red and blue-green. The system 
is ingenious in that it does not require a projection 
printer, because the pictures are printed in their 
original relative positions. They are combined on 
top of each other on the screen by introducing a 
prism, similar to that used in the camera, into the 
projector lens system; or by means of twin lenses 
set at a slight angle so as to superimpose both 
images on the screen. 

Polychromide, another British system, works on 
much the same lines as Technicolor in America, 
with this difference, that in this system, instead of 
photographing two pictures at once on the same 
film, two separate films are used side by side in 
the camera, and the positive films are dyed instead 
of being toned. 

There is no doubt that colour film projection is 
bound to come, and there is really no reason why 
in course of time it should not become very good. 
But whether or not colour cinematography is 
ever likely to give results as attractive as the 
original, each reader must judge for himself. 

In the meantime it is rather pleasant to dream 
of Isaac Newton revisiting the earth, just to see 
how things are going on, and to watch his face 
as he sits beside one in the stalls and sees the 
magic of his prism at work. 



With acknowledgments to the Hollywood and Los Angeles Press. 

As I have shown, Talkies have caused a revolu- 
tion in the motion-picture industry, and like all 
revolutions it was only popular with those who 
saw immediate benefit from it. Everyone else in 
the industry, director, star, cinematographer, and 
exhibitor, hated the idea of the Talking picture. 
The only class with whom it was popular was the 
executive, who saw in this new form of expression 
a heaven-sent opportunity for making more money 
and who forced their more or less unwilling 
staffs to find a way of making Talkies. Although 
the idea was strange to practically the whole of 
the personnel of the studios to begin with, the 
new medium grew upon them as they worked 
and advanced, until a fascination laid hold on 
them, with the result that every studio pro- 
ducing Talkies has become wildly enthusiastic 
about them. Much the same thing occurred with 
the exhibitor. At the start he saw nothing but 
enhanced prices for films, with the possibility of 
the public not "falling for" the new medium of 
expression. His pessimism has likewise changed 
to optimism as he sees the long queues waiting 



to go into theatres wherever Talking pictures are 
being shown. 

In the Talking picture the director saw the 
elaborate structure which he had so laboriously 
built up in the technique of the silent film crash- 
ing to the ground, and a new technique taking its 
place in which, probably, there would be no 
scope for himself. As we have seen, he was mis- 
taken, and has been amazed to find that he can 
still incorporate most of those little touches so 
dear to his heart, and, what is more, has found 
that the advent of sound has increased their 
effectiveness rather than diminished them. 

Here is what Cecil de Mille, the famous 
director of the Ten Commandments and the King 
of Kings, said: "The microphone is even more 
merciless than the camera in showing up human 
imperfections. In silent pictures it was possible to 
photograph the good side of a star's face and 
eliminate the bad. That was a godsend, because 
even the greatest stars possessed one profile 
that was more attractive than the other, but the 
microphone makes no allowances. The actor 
either speaks all words well, or all badly, and 
that is the way they record. In my opinion many 
players who have been struggling along for years 
with only moderate success will suddenly find 


« £ 






themselves great hits. Wonderful things can be 
done in sound ; that is unquestioned. It is, perhaps, 
the greatest medium of all. However, in view 
of the epics already produced, I don't think that 
the silent form will ever be wiped out. I think 
it will be the medium for subjects done in the 
grand manner, of those requiring tremendous 
pictorial scope and artistry." 

His brother, William de Mille, director of the 
Doctor's Secret, the talking-picture version of 
Barrie's Half an Hour, stated in an interview to 
the American Cinematographer, that "in this new 
school there is no teacher but experience, and very 
little of that. At present the main struggle is to 
perfect a craft upon which the future art may 
be founded. There is a natural tendency at the 
beginning to rush to the spoken drama for aid, 
but it is doubtful if this point of view will last 
long. The photograph of a stage play will not 
continue to satisfy a public educated to the fluid 
movement and great intimacy of the true motion- 
picture. The charm of variety in settings and rapid 
change of locality need not be lost because the 
story is told in dialogue. However amusing it 
may be to theorize on the future development 
of the Talkie, the real problem which confronts 
us in the studios to-day is the actual production of 


the tiling itself. Directors and writers are not yet 
familiar with those basic conditions under which 
they must work in the future ; it is not the sound- 
expert who makes the trouble — it is the sound 
itself. Modern Directors are as dependent upon 
their fixers' as they have always been on their 
cameramen. In the present state of the art there 
will have to be a good deal of give-and-take 
between the Director and his Mixer. The situation 
frequently arises in which a perfect recording can 
only be secured at the expense of dramatic value. 
It must then be decided whether, at that point, 
perfect recording or perfect action is imperative. 
But eventually the Director will become sound- 
sensitive just as the mixer will become scene- 

As with the Directors so the stars of both 
sexes had their anxieties. Would the Talkie mean 
their eclipse owing to their voices being unsuitable 
for reproduction? Anyone who has spoken to 
some of them knows how well-founded this fear 
was. But this difficulty has already been overcome, 
because where a star is deservedly popular with 
the public, but has a voice which is useless for 
recording, a beautiful "voice double" is supplied 
and the star goes on his or her way with an 
unruffled brow. Some of the stars' own thoughts 


Douglas Fairbanks. 

[Courtesy of United Artists. 

[To face page 183. 


on the matter make interesting reading. This is 
what Douglas Fairbanks said : "The creator of a 
fine bit of work in the Talkie medium will have 
to be an enormous man. He will have to deal 
with composition, with movement, with dialogue, 
with many things. All forms are combined in this 
new medium. The engineers will stand behind 
him with their slide rules and insist that he do 
everything to measure. Dialogue will be used as 
a means of clarifying the picture, or putting in 
philosophy. It will be like sugar in a cake. There 
will have to be just the right measure or the 
cake will not taste right. We ought to get some 
really beautiful phrases from great writers and 
work them into our pictures. If they were spoken 
well, they would enhance the value of the picture 
greatly. We have got to find some way to over- 
come pauses in sound, especially at the ends of 
sequences, which are so noticeable and horrible. 
The screen is different from the stage. On the 
stage the dialogue works up to a climax which 
is ended by a curtain. We can't do that on the 
screen for the simple reason that real life, which 
the Talkies resemble, has no curtains. For that 
reason my opinion is that stage plays will not be 
successful on the talking screen. The stage isn't 


"It is astonishing," said Mary Pickford, who 
has become so tired of being the "World's 
Sweetheart," and who has made a sensational 
comeback in Talkies, "how the new medium 
rounds out personality. It is as if audiences had 
been seeing only one side of artistes' faces and 
now see both. It causes the artiste to become an 
almost different person. I am making my debut 
again. For years I have been seeking a departure 
from the type of character I normally play, but 
in every picture up to Coquette, I have had to 
compromise because people would plead, 'Don't 
destroy that little girl with the golden curls and 
the innocent heart.' In the development of talking 
pictures I see all the obstacles that the earliest 
silent productions had to overcome. In the pioneer 
days we were troubled with film breaking and 
with pictures shown backwards; now we get 
unwanted bizarre effects with sound. We actors 
are at the mercy of the operators. I am always 
afraid that they will change me into a bass or 
baritone. The marvellous thing about the 'Talkies' 
to me is that they can do away with the two great 
weaknesses of pictures, close-ups and subtitles. 
Written titles are always an interruption, a foreign 
element ; they have nothing to do with pantomime. 
On the other hand, the spoken word plays a vita] 


Mary Pickford. 

[Courtesy of United Artists. 

[To face page 1S4. 


Clara Bow. 

Courtesy o) Paramount Film Service Ltd. 

[To Jace page 185. 


part in its relation to the action and assures a 
continuous flow to the picture." 

Clara Bow, star of Wings, and possessor in 
excelsis of that mysterious quality known in 
America as "It," delivered herself thus: "Six 
months ago I didn't like talking pictures — thought 
I'd never like to appear in them. I was afraid of 
something which seemed to be so different from 
the profession I had learned, but now I know it 
was all because I had never worked before a 
microphone. To-day I am crazy about talking 
pictures, and I hope I never have to go back to 
silent films." 

Harold Lloyd saw added scope in comedy 
situations and the solution of tremendous diffi- 
culties. "Sound is going to help the comedian. 
It will give him a whole new bag of tricks. 
Before he had to depend on pantomime alone. 
Any sound, such as the quacking of ducks, is 
amusing. We had always tried to obtain such 
effects for comedies through the orchestra; a 
drummer who was clever generally added laughs. 
But, of course, he couldn't approach the results 
we will be able to attain with the microphone. 
The possibilities are unlimited. But the problem 
of producing comedies with sound is terrific. 
In drama it is difficult enough to keep the charac- 


ters moving naturally while the sound is being 
recorded. In comedy we not only have to do that, 
but we have to move much faster and meanwhile 
do gags. The Director having to deliver his 
instructions by mute signals is a stumbling-block 
in the performance of the gags, which must be 
timed to the fraction of a second. The placing 
of the microphone is another problem. We will 
have to carry microphones concealed under our 
coats, or suspended on our backs with the wires 
hanging down our trouser legs. If we find out 
how to move freely with the concealed micro- 
phones, we can build a whole runway of wires 
and establish contact through steel plates on the 
soles of our shoes." 

Mack Sennet, producer of more short comedies 
than any other man in the world, had very 
decided views on the matter, as thus : "The first 
thing we learned about talking comedies was 
that it is bad to have them talk. When dialogue 
was a novelty we could listen to long-winded 
garrulous scenes without action, but now it's 
irritating, and we think : 'For Heaven's sake, why 
don't they do something.' I like to start a story 
with a bang and keep it moving. It is best to 
blend dialogue and sound-effects with action so as 
to give the audience everything that was done in 


Harold Lloyd. 

[Courtesy of Paramount Film Service Ltd. 

[To face page 186. 


Charles Chaplin. 

[Courtesy of United Artists. 

[To face page 


silent films and a lot more. I don't think that the 
'Talkies' need many people new to pictures. In 
fact, those that I have already made prove that 
my best people are motion-picture actors. They 
know the business, while the stage actor has to be 
trained. We won't have talking bathing girls, 
because the record of the average woman's voice 
is not altogether pleasing." 

Chaplin, of course, resides in a motion-picture 
class of his own. He is probably the one artist in 
the whole of the motion-picture industry who can 
stand out against "Talkies" and still remain as 
popular as ever as the perfect mime. He dislikes 
"Talkies" immensely, seeing in them nothing 
but a menace to motion-picture art. From his own 
point of view he is absolutely right, because one 
gesture from him tells more than five minutes of 
dialogue would, but then he is the outstanding 
genius which the motion-picture has produced, 
and has a grip of the medium in which he works 
such as has not been attained by any other man. 

Norma Talmadge, like other artistes, was at 
first by no means decided about the Talkies : "If 
a person drank coffee for breakfast every morning 
for ten or fifteen years and suddenly changed to 
cocoa or tea, it might be rather difficult to become 
accustomed to the transition. Naturally I am still 


a bit 'on edge' regarding 'Talkies,' but I am 
interested in them — decidedly so." 

Joseph Schildkraut, star of Show Boat, voiced 
the feelings of the actor with both stage and 
screen experience, thus : "Even stage players have 
to watch their step in dealing with the microphone. 
Especially is this true of the old-timers who 
trod the boards when the technique called for 
voice volume that would crack the eardrums in 
the last row of the gallery." 

Then there were the Art Directors too. When 
Talkies first arrived they saw nothing but menace 
in a situation which demanded that all the sets 
should be built of a new material which had a high 
sound-absorption factor, and that they should 
take a form which allowed of no "dead spots" of 
reverberation. As they have worked in the new 
medium so they have found a new expression in 
their "sets," and the evasion of the "dead spot" 
shapes has given them fresh ideas for the actual 
composition of their scenes. One of the most 
elaborate Talkies yet produced, from the point 
of view of art direction, is The Broadway Melody, 
and Cedric Gibbons, who was responsible for 
this branch of the picture says : "No matter how 
engrossing the dialogue and sound-effects may 
be, we shall not be able to forget that primarily 


we are looking at pictures. The backgrounds and 
composition must appeal to the eye. All of us see a 
lot better than we hear ; in fact, we actually see 
before we hear. Why did we, as children, always 
want to look at the pictures when mother read 
from a story book? Because what we see makes a 
big impression on us. I do not think any talking 
picture that completely sacrifices pictorial quality 
will be successful. There are a number of reasons 
why our sets for talking pictures are not as 
elaborate as they should be at the present time. 
Building sets of proper acoustic material, for 
instance, costs about twice as much as building 
ordinary sets. Another difference is that in a 
sound-picture no two walls may be constructed 
facing each other on account of the echo. The 
medium itself, however, offers great possibilities 
for future development." 

Lastly, we come to the cinematographer. This 
highly specialized technician saw in the conditions 
imposed by the talking picture his own province 
being restricted to allow for the sound-engineer to 
come in, and the knowledge and camera tricks 
which he had accumulated over a period of 
fifteen years thrown to the winds, and his own 
technique made subservient to that of the radio 
man. Being a combination of artist and scientist, 


he saw in the introduction of the new medium 
nothing but an ugly interloper, one who would 
negative all his artistic effects and put a veto upon 
the scientific use of the camera by which he 
obtains such bewildering results. It was un- 
doubtedly a fact in the earlier talkies that the 
cinematographers' work was sacrificed on the 
altar of sound. One very prominent member 
of the American Society of Cinematographers 
published in their magazine a bitter indictment 
as to the cavalier way in which everything except 
the sound-record was being treated. He com- 
plained that : "Apparently the 'talk' in 'talkie' is 
being counted upon to overwhelm our sense of 
hearing with fascinating sound to such an extent 
as to leave all powers of perception relatively 
numb to visual stimuli, good or bad." He quotes 
the story of a farmhand who was instructed to 
grease the wheels of a wagon. He did the job, 
and later on it was found that he had only treated 
the front wheels. When asked the reason, he said 
that as long as the front wheels went round the 
rear wheels just had to follow; the simile being 
that in the new sound-picture situation sound is 
the front wheels of the wagon, and cinemato- 
graphy the rear. 

Another famous cinematographer saw the 


sacrifice of all beauty in pictures to the sound- 
record. "One must remember that the present 
high standard of efficiency in the photography 
of motion-pictures is the result of many years 
of painstaking research, devotion to ideals, and 
much expenditure of capital. Shall the beauty of 
the film, then, be sacrificed to the exigencies of 
sound as they exist according to present-day 
sound-picture technique? Beauty, it may be said, 
is the enchantment, and to permit anything to 
impair it would seem to be throwing away 
treasure beyond price." 

Not long ago, in one of the large Hollywood 
studios, the cinematographer in charge of the 
production was discussing the problems of obtain- 
ing better photography in the sound-sequences, 
when the sound-engineer gave tongue thus : "To 
hell with photography! What about sound?" 
Admitted this is not the right spirit in which to 
attack the problem of a job which demands 
co-operation from two highly skilled, but utterly 
different types, of professional men ; but there is 
something to be said for the sound-engineer, who 
certainly has a tough problem to tackle. To quote 
one of them : "Apparently some of the motion- 
picture actors, directors, and cinematographers, 
seem convinced that all it is necessary to do to 


make a talking picture is to substitute dialogue 
for titles, shoot the picture with finished silent 
version technique, and have the sound-experts 
swing a lot of 'mikes' round above the camera 
line, and record. Now let me give you an analogy. 
. . . Suppose, for example, that the motion-picture 
industry with its present highly developed tech- 
nique and art was suddenly called upon to go on 
to the so-called legitimate stage and shoot silent 
versions of stage plays. Then suppose the stage- 
managers stipulated that the motion-picture experts 
must improve their equipment and revise their 
methods so that they could do a passable job of 
photography without changing one iota of stage 
action, lighting, actors' make-up, design, and 
arrangement of sets, and, furthermore, that the 
cameras must shoot from some fixed sideline so 
that the audience cannot possibly see them. 
Cannot you plainly hear the tremendous howl 
which would go up to high heaven from the 
cinematographers and picture directors ? Yet this 
is a perfect analogy of what we sound-engineers 
are expected to be able to perform on the studio 

The cinematographer, being above all things 
an adaptable fellow, as well as a scientist, has, 
however, found in the sound-engineer an indi- 


vidual who commands his respect, inasmuch as 
he certainly is working under adverse conditions, 
and, what is more, getting results. The sound- 
engineer, in his turn, is beginning to get some 
idea of the cinematographer's point of view, and, 
realizing that both photography and sound must 
work hand in hand, and that one is as necessary 
as the other, the two are now working in happy 

What would they say now? Perhaps they are 
all too busy getting down to their new problems 
to have time for contemplation. Whatever people 
may say, the Talkies are improving. Slowly, but 
surely, the back stage "sob stuff" with its pink 
and blue heroines is dying out, and the prime 
importance of a sound plot, good words, and 
balanced acting, is becoming evident. Rubbish 
seen alone or heard alone does not stand out so 
sharply as when it is caught writhing in the 
converging beams of simultaneous sight and 
hearing. The screen is tending towards reality. 
The Talkies have brought it marvellously near on 
more than one occasion. It is easy to deplore an 
age of mechanical entertainment, but there is no 
doubt that science and reality can be, and are 
being, brought closer together by the talking 
picture. There can be no better ending for this 


book than a quotation from an American film 
engineer, Mr. J. W. CofTman, speaking in America 
to the American section of the Society of Motion- 
Picture Engineers : 

Science and Art are not natural enemies — rather, they 
are natural complements. Science reveals nature — art makes 
life liveable in spite of those revelations. Science represents 
the accomplishments of man — art, his aspirations. . . . 
And as aspiration tends to become accomplishment, the 
art of to-day becomes the science of to-morrow. And yet, 
paradoxically enough, art begins where science ends, for 
the foundation of all art is science, whether that science 
be conscious or unconscious. Art is empirical — science, 
mathematical. Science seeks realism — art seeks illusion. 
But, for the tools to create illusion, art turns to science, 
the sturdy champion of reality. 


A handsome volume, io" x 6". 300 pages. Diagrams, 
photographs, and colour plates. 36/- net. 


By Adrian Bernard Klein, M.B.E. 

Past and Present Proposals — Painting and Colour- 
Music — Music and Colour-Music — Psychology and 
Colour-Music — The Problem of Colour Harmony — A 
Theory of Colour-Music based on the Theory of Sound- 
Music — Colour-Music as an Independent Art — The Art 
of Stage Lighting and the Art of Light — Instruments. 

"In Mr. Klein's book we have the most comprehensive 
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appeared." — The Times Uterary Supplement. 

1 'The book is beautifully produced ; the coloured plates are 
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200 pages. Copiously illustrated. 8 \" X 5}*. 10/6 net. 

Modern Picture Theatre 


By R. V. Johnson 

The Electrical Supply — Notes on the Electrical 
Installation — The Auditorium Lightestg — Outside 
Lighting — Projection Arc Resistances — Venttlating and 
Heating — The Intake Chamber — Generating, Projec- 
tion, and Rewd^ding Rooms — The Motor Generator — 
Private Generating Plants — Management of Dynamos 
and Motors — Notes on the Internal Combustion Engine 
— The Projector — Care of Projectors — Operating — 
— The Projection Arc, Hand Feed and Automatic — 
Lenses — The Screen — The Film — Bright Ideas — Switch- 
board Design and Wiring Diagrams. 

"A reader of reasonable intelligence who goes conscien- 
tiously through the chapters and studies illustrations and 
wiring diagrams can but gain a good idea of what electrical 
equipment and maintenance of a motion picture theatre should 
be." — Kinematograph Weekly. 

"It is not too much to say that this work should be in the 
hands of every British operator, whether senior or junior." 
— The Cinema.